- “For the love of candy” (www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)
To everyday civilians, “the pursuit of happiness” typically involves career, home, love, and family. It’s no different for military families, with one important exception: ORDERS.
Unlike their civilian counterparts, active duty servicepersons must pursue their happiness within the strict confines of written military orders, which are lengthy documents that appear to be written in alien code.
Military orders seem riddled with gibberish, and might be easily replicated as follows: Sit on a computer keyboard for about ten minutes, periodically shifting positions. Once enough “XXXXXXXXs” and “UUUUUUs” have been typed, print out about 15 pages; staple. Trust me, even the most seasoned soldier or sailor wouldn’t immediately notice the difference.
However, buried amongst the seemingly nonsensical verbiage are key phrases such as “Report no later than August 2013” and “Newport, Rhode Island,” which, although embedded in gobbledygook, are important mandatory instructions regarding the next couple of years in a serviceperson’s life.
We are a Navy family who’s seen our share of military orders. Our most recent written orders arrived a month ago. Besides “RTTUZYUW” and “UUUU–RHMCSUU” my husband’s orders indicate that this summer, he must report to a new job at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Our last orders instructed my husband to report to Naval Station Mayport, Florida in March 2011, and before that to Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany in July 2008. Before that Djibouti, East Africa. Before that Norfolk, Virginia. Before that Molesworth, England. Before that, Monterey California. And so on, and so on.
I can’t prove it without the assistance of an experienced cryptographer, but I think that our orders might also contain mandates such as “///GET OVER IT///” or “///NO WHINING–YOU’RE IN THE MILITARY///.” We must follow military orders regardless of inconvenience or hardship, like moving your son before his senior year, or leaving the church that you like so much, or separating your youngest after she finally made a new best friend. None of that matters. We are at the mercy of the U.S. Navy.
So why do we continue to let ourselves get ordered around?
In today’s unstable economic climate, one might think that mere job security is what motivates military families to keep following orders, and with all the news of “fiscal cliffs” and “sequestration” there is some truth to this.
However, regardless of job security, a deep attachment to a military culture develops. With each successive move, military families not only become more resilient, but also cultivate a strong identity and pride in their unique lifestyle. Believe it or not, we become so accustomed to being ordered to go somewhere new, we often look forward to it after being in one place for a couple of years.
I must admit, I’ve wondered if our affection for military life might be a twinge of Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe it’s rooted in fear of what’s on the outside, like long-term prisoners who are afraid to be released from prison life. Or maybe it’s a compulsion, like Pacino’s Michael Corleone in Godfather III (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”)
Truly, I know our affinity for this lifestyle is rooted in honor, duty, courage, loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority, and sacrifice for others. These concepts have become muddled in today’s society, so we feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to raise our kids in a military environment where those virtues are emphasized. We live and work with other military families who have a common understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. We don’t need a permanent hometown — it’s the similar sense of values and camaraderie with our fellow military families that makes us feel at home.
No doubt about it: non-military families are fortunate to put down roots in one place where they can make close friendships and foster stable school, family and community ties. They might not understand how a family like mine could be happy about moving to Rhode Island after less than two years in Florida.
But we are happy about our ninth move in 20 years, because it’s part and parcel of our military lifestyle. To quote a common saying which adorns many a sailor’s front door, “Home is where the Navy sends us.”
I love snowy white winters, but ever since the Navy moved us to Florida, the only flakes we see are floating in milk-filled cereal bowls. So, I sit on my sunny screened porch in January, surrounded by green grass, ocean breezes, and palm trees, and I dream of snow.
I know, I know, that’s nuts. Crazy. Certifiable. But I can’t help it. Something was imprinted in my psyche many years ago, something that makes me associate winter with snow, and snow with pleasure.
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, my heart filled with anticipation at the first snow. To us, snow, especially in copious amounts, meant FUN. Snowballs, sled riding, hot chocolate, and one of the most joyous occasions in a child’s life – SNOW DAYS.
I can recall falling off my flying red plastic sled in a puff of white on the hill behind our house, and laying a minute or two, to make sure I was still in one piece and to listen to the silence – how the snow absorbs noise and brings a soft quietness to the air. Packed and padded in protective layers, I felt swaddled like a baby, watching my breath ascend over me into the air. It was pure joy.
Ironically, a serious sledding accident in the winter of 1977 only strengthened my positive association with snow.
I was in the fifth grade, and it was the last night of our winter break from school, and also my father’s poker night. While the men played cards in our basement rec room, my brother and I listened to radio reports of a blizzard, and hoped for school closures.
Fueled by bravado (and a few beers), my father and his buddies decided it would be a good idea to take our 12-man wooden toboggan out for a run down the hill behind our house. My brother and I couldn’t believe our luck, and eagerly followed.
With my legs crisscrossed under the toboggan’s wooden curl, I sat in the front, four men and my brother behind me. Visibility was nil due to the blizzard and dark night, but there was a wide path between the houses for our ride. With the weight of the men, we took off like a bullet, and I pulled the ties of my parka hood tight to keep the snow from hitting my face.
About halfway down the hill – WHAM! The rest came in flashes: my father’s friend looking down wearing one of my hats, someone saying “I think it’s broken”, riding in the back of a truck, being carried on the toboggan into the hospital, three layers of pants being cut off, wanting my mom and dad.
I had broken my femur. Apparently, our toboggan had drifted off course, running into a white flagpole in our neighbor’s yard. I spent the next two and a half months in a hospital bed, with a weight hanging off the end of my foot.
To add insult to injury, during my lengthy hospital stay, the historic 1977 blizzard blew into town. Schools were cancelled for over two weeks, and I was stuck in a hospital bed watching Don Ho and eating Jell-O.
One might think that the experience would have caused me to associate snow with pain; however, the pain of my broken leg paled in comparison to the envy I had for my peers who spent two glorious weeks out of school, sucking on icicles, throwing snowballs, and drinking hot chocolate.
So now, like Pavlov’s dog, when winter rolls around, I begin to drool.
Sometimes the Navy sends us somewhere that fulfills my nostalgic longings, like our last tour in snowy Stuttgart, Germany.
I must admit, there was a downside. Bundled up like the Michelin Man, I would trudge four flights down our military stairwell housing to our minivan, hazy with salt residue and laden with blackened hunks of snow behind each wheel. Despite spraying de-icing compound into the locks, the doors would often be frozen solid, requiring me to climb in from the trunk.
But now, even with the memories of crusted, frozen, gritty car doors still freshly juxtaposed against this balmy pastel Florida winter, I can’t help but long for snow. Big fluffy, white hunks dropping from tree branches. Delicate crystalline flakes drifting slowly from the sky.
Cold to the touch. Warm to my heart.
“C’mon guys!” I bellowed from the kitchen, “You’re late!” One by one, they appeared at our table, each carrying a heavy attitude.
My husband had always thought my family meetings were pure nonsense. All this nicey-nicey talking was a complete waste of his Sunday leisure time. When he grew up, you did what your parents told you to do, or you’d be wearing five faster than you can say “child protective services.”
However, my active duty Navy husband had left me in charge of the household on so many occasions in our 19-year marriage, he had decided that it was best to go along with my parenting strategies, harebrained or not.
I’d been holding semi-annual family meetings since the kids were too young to read my typed agendas, and believed these forced family events were necessary to maintain order, and my sanity. Although no stranger to corporal punishment, I’d always been afraid we’d turn our kids into axe murders, heroine junkies, or worst of all, adults with low self-esteem.
So, I believed we could achieve total cooperation from our children simply by gathering them up and nicely telling them what we want them to do. Makes perfect sense, right?
Our girls, 12 and 14, arrived in a sock-sliding race for the best seat, the elder sister grabbing the prime spot.
The last to arrive, thudding down the stairs, was our 17-year-old son, who would’ve preferred a hot poker in his eye than a conversation with family in which feelings might be discussed.
With everyone seated, I decided to play upon their worst fears.
“OK, everyone, let’s hold hands and say what we love about each other . . .” I allowed a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, and just when I thought mutiny was imminent, I blurted, “Gotcha!”
My comedic genius softened them up a bit, exactly what I needed for my parental brainwashing plan to take hold. Clearing my throat, I began.
“School starts tomorrow, and we want you to manage your time properly so everything runs smoothly. We’ll get up each morning promptly at six, and we expect . . .” I went on, and on, about bedtimes, homework, chores, allowance, privileges, personal hygiene, and manners.
About 40 minutes into the lecture, I knew I was losing them, an eventuality for which I was prepared.
“In conclusion, to help you manage your time, we got you each a little gift.”
The girls squealed with delight when I revealed three super-cool new sports watches, with digital displays, dual alarms with five minute back up, 10 lap memory chrono, and water resistance to 100 meters – whatever all that means.
I sat back, smug with satisfaction. My plan is complete. Rules will be followed. Order is restored. No punishments necessary. And I look like Mother Theresa. Nice.
“Uh, just so you know, I’m not wearing this thing,” my son suddenly interjected.
“Listen Honey, you’re almost a man now — you really should learn how to use a watch… “
“I’m not putting this stupid hunk of plastic on my wrist when there are clocks everywhere.”
I can’t be sure, but smoke may have started rising out of my ears.
It may have been our son’s utter lack of appreciation, his complete disregard for authority, my unrealistic desire for total obedience, or the fact that my underwear was riding up that afternoon, but I was seeing red.
“Listen to me, young man,” I said through gritted teeth, “you WILL wear that watch, understand me?”
The next 20 minutes are a bit foggy, but I do clearly recall my husband storming off down the street, and my son throwing the watch at the wall while screaming a particular expletive, which he’d previously not uttered in our presence. Then, I vaguely remember flying upstairs without touching the ground and lifting my son’s door off the hinges with superhuman strength.
Cooling off in our garage, I felt an immediate sense of regret. The boy IS seventeen – he probably sees that watch as a shackle, keeping him under our control. I need to let him make his own choice.
I walked into the house, just as my son was coming out to find me. Our eyes met, communicating our mutual regret without words.
“Where’d that watch go, Mom? I’ll give it a try.”
“I’ll help you find it, Honey, and I was thinking, maybe you could just carry it in your pocket if you don’t want to wear it around your wrist.”
Just as we found the watch in the corner, my husband arrived home, refreshed from a nice afternoon walk, and asked, “So . . . what’s for dinner?”
In fact, prior to committing ourselves to each other until death, my husband and I were pretty much clueless. We had no idea what kind of husband or wife we might turn out to be. As long as we were in love, we thought, nothing else mattered, right?
Time marched on, and with each passing year, we made new realizations about each other and our relationship.
Most significantly, our vastly different childhood experiences forced us to redefine our pre-conceived notions of “man” and “woman.”
My husband grew up going to private school as the son of a neurologist in the affluent DC suburb of Chevy Chase. At weekend cocktail parties and crew regattas, parents chatted over canapés about politics, world events, and their children’s prep schools. They drank bottled water and bought their food from overpriced grocery stores. They had things like capers and pate in their refrigerators, and drove imported cars.
I, on the other hand, grew up in a town with only one high school, where we thought every one in the world had two days off for hunting season. To the people of my small town, “Chevy Chase” was not necessarily an affluent neighborhood, and it was perfectly normal to get your water from a well and your meat from the woods. Our refrigerators frequently contained bricks of Velveeta, cans of Hershey’s syrup, and in the spring, fish with the heads still on. My parents’ vehicles were pre-owned, and other than one Volkswagen Beetle, none of them were imported.
My husband grew up believing that all women can throw sophisticated dinner parties at the drop of a hat, while being charming and looking fabulous in the latest styles from Lord & Taylor or Talbot’s. He did not realize that he had made a lifetime commitment to someone who shops at Target and whose idea of a party is opening a bag of Fritos and watching a Steelers’ game. My poor husband has had to redefine “woman” to include those, like me, who would prefer a hot poker in the eye than the obligatory social events required of a navy officer’s wife.
Similarly, I have had to adjust my definition of “man” to include those who don’t own any thing that is fluorescent orange. I’ve had to realize that there are men out there who actually prefer white wine to beer, and not all men demand space in the garage for a work bench. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my husband is afraid of tools, guns and knives, and shudders at the mere thought of putting a worm on a hook, much less eating a fish with the head still on it.
I’ll admit – I have felt somewhat guilty that I’ve never fulfilled my husband’s expectations of what his wife might be. I’ve often wished that I was more sophisticated, more formal, more “fancy.”
And I’ve seen self-consciousness in his eyes too, like the time I had to put the barbecue grill together because he couldn’t understand the instructions, or the time I snorkeled on a beach vacation for four hours alone while he sipped a Pink Squirrel and read an Oprah Winfrey book selection under an umbrella.
If we knew back then what we know now, would we have eternally promised ourselves to each other before the altar of Graystone Church eighteen years ago today?
Without a doubt, I say “Yes.”
When we first met, the one thing we knew for certain was that neither of us was perfect, but we instantly gave each other the pure and unconditional acceptance that had been missing in our lives. Unless one later discovers that one’s betrothed is actually an axe murderer or a spy for the Russians, unconditional love and acceptance is a powerful thing that can transcend unknown personality quirks.
Besides, I’ve also discovered along the way that my husband is incredibly disciplined, dedicated, and hard-working. Better yet, he is fiercely loyal and his love for our family is deep and sincere. Best of all, he makes me laugh.
We may not be the husband and wife we thought we’d be eighteen years ago, but deep in our hearts is the underlying truth that we love and accept each other just the way we are.
So, Happy Anniversary, Honey. Always be yourself, and I will always love you for it.
As the victims of Hurricane Irene repair their flooded homes, new winds over the ocean whip in circles. Some will peter out, while others will twist and writhe into gigantic storm cells that threaten our coastlines. This pattern is repeated year after year, and we cope with the destruction as life goes on.
This year, the East Coast survived Irene. In 2008,Texas survived Ike. In 2005, the Gulf States survived Katrina. In 2003, the Mid-Atlantic survived Isabel. Each time, the affected people dealt with their losses, gathered with their communities and rebuilt their lives.
A decade ago, we were hit by a destructive cell bigger than any hurricane. It was the Storm of Terrorism and it rained down on us on September the 11th, 2001.
Ten years after the devastation of 9/11, has ourAmerican Wayof Life survived the storm intact? What is unique about how Americans react to disasters, both natural and manmade?
When Hurricane Isabel roared through the Mid Atlantic States in September 2003, my family of five was gathered around a battery operated radio in our family room inVirginia Beach, nervously listening to news of the storm’s path.
On September 11th, my family was gathered in that same family room, shocked by the news of the first plane crashes.
During one of Isabel’s howling gusts, our house was suddenly slammed with something that shook the foundation. I instinctively grabbed the kids and headed to a doorway in the center of the house, while my husband ran out onto our porch to investigate. “It’s bad, Honey! Really bad!” he yelled, darting back into the house and up the stairs. When he finally joined us, he reported that a 90 foot pine tree had uprooted and fell through our roof, breaking through the second floor ceiling.
As we stood within five feet of our television screen on 9/11, with the children at our feet, I gasped loudly and put my hands to my mouth when the Twin Towers collapsed to the ground.
In both situations, our children were too innocent to understand what was happening. They had never experienced hurricanes or terrorism. Both times, they watched my husband and me, trying to make sense of it all, and both times, our children reflected our fear.
Not more than a minute after the tree hit, our neighbors shuttled the kids and I to their house, while the men braved 100 mph gusts to anchor tarps over the gaping hole in our roof. That night, we tried to sleep on the neighbor’s floor while our minds raced with thoughts of the damage, the deductible, reconstruction, and loss.
Once we were able to grasp the horrific events of the 9/11 terror attacks, our minds raced with thoughts of the devastating loss of life, the mind boggling acts of heroism, and the inevitable war to come. The tragedy was almost too much to bear.
The day after Isabel spun her way northward, we awoke to a beautiful, sunny day, and although there was much work to do, we were grateful to be alive and felt a new appreciation for our family and our neighbors. People on our street shared water, tools and generators. On our gas grill, I cooked up all the thawing steaks, sausages, bacon and eggs from our powerless refrigerator, and passed breakfast out to the neighbors. Even the most recluse of our neighbors was out on the street, willing to lend a helping hand.
Similarly, in the days after the 9/11 attacks, Americans from every race, political party, and socio-economic group banded together and displayed unbridled patriotism, the likes of which our country had not experienced in decades. Flags flew on every street. Neighbors, friends and family reached out to connect, enlist, volunteer and donate. Despite the divisive views on the War on Terror now, back then it was clear to everyone that the US had to show the rest of the world that no one can attack Americans and get away with it.
It is as if these destructive events serve to remind Americans of how good we have it. After these storms, whether natural or manmade, the clouds of political divisiveness and floodwaters of our daily routines disappear. We can suddenly see our lives clearly, and find new appreciation for our families, our communities, and our nation.
But since the 9/11 attacks, our collective visibility has been overcast with the minutia of the War on Terror, the controversy over the 9/11 memorial site, claims of corruption in charitable fundraising, and other complicated political issues. Our ability to clearly recall the injustice of the 9/11 attacks has eroded. Instead of banding together to stand against such forces of destruction, we are fighting with each other.
On this, the tenth anniversary of the senseless terrorist attacks on our shores, let’s put our differences aside. Bring to mind that fateful day and how it felt. Think of those who lost their lives in the attack and the heroic rescues. Honor the military members who continue to fight so that terrorism will not make landfall in the United States again. Harness those emotions, memories and patriotism. Be grateful for our families, our communities, our nation, and the one thing that no storm or terror cell can destroy – our uniquely American way of life.
I’ve been thinking lately about the things I’ve taken for granted. After living three years abroad, our military family finally appreciates what we have as Americans.
I’m not talking about ethereal concepts like democracy and freedom. I’m talking about the really important things that make a tangible difference in our every day lives as Americans.
I’m talking about Corn on the Cob.
Yes, that sweet vegetarian delicacy indigenous to this great land of ours. Native Americans cultivated “maize” for thousands of years before Europeans discovered the “New World” and the usefulness of corn as a grain, but it was only a couple centuries ago that Iroquois shared with settlers the sweet variety of corn eaten off the cob. Unlike the settlers, Europeans never really took to eating corn straight off the cob. In fact, they are of the general opinion that corn on the cob is hog feed.
So for three long years, we went without.
It wasn’t easy, because, as far as vegetables go, corn on the cob has always been kinda special to us. Despite the fact that my father was raised at the boardwalk in New Jersey, he was always a wannabe country boy, which is why we had a garden about eight times too big for a family of four, along with a tractor, six chickens, two goats, a cat, and at least two hunting dogs.
As such, my brother and I had chores that were uncharacteristic of suburban children. We were picking green beans, tending goats, and driving a tractor when our friends were getting jobs at the mall. Also, I had the unenviable task of selling the excess eggs, puppies, and vegetables at the end of our road. Corn on the cob was my best seller, and my first real source of income.
Nearly two decades later, my husband-to-be first laid eyes on me when I was sitting rather unlady like on the deck of a beach house, shucking corn. Unfortunately, I was covered in sand and my wet bangs had fallen into an unflattering middle part. Worse yet, the four thick rolls of my belly protruded between the top and bottom of my bathing suit.
It took a shower and considerable work with my curling iron, but I was able to win him over at dinner that evening, not without help from a heaping plate of delicious Silver Queen corn on the cob.
Even my children have fallen under the sweet corn spell. Our middle child, Anna, has always been a worrier. One night when she was about five years old, I tucked her into bed, placing her tiny hands together under mine to say our prayers.
“Now I lay me . . .” I began.
“Mommy?” Anna interrupted. “Yes, Honey?”
“What happens when you die?” she said, her big eyes staring up into mine.
“Uh,” my mind raced, unprepared. “Well, you go to Heaven, Sweetie. Now where were we?”
“Yea, but, what will happen to my body,” she specified.
As I looked into the worried eyes of my precious little girl, I could not reveal the reality of death and bodily decomposition. Panicked, I began to ramble.
“Well, Honey, when someone dies, his soul leaves his body and floats up to Heaven.”
“But . . .” I knew I had to say something, anything, that would quickly distract her from thoughts of dead bodies being buried in deep, dark graves, where they are left to rot into the dirt.
“Heaven is beautiful!” I said, but her eyes still looked worried, “And you can have anything you want,” her brows were still furrowed, “and, and, you can have wings and YOU CAN FLY!”
“Can I have purple wings, Mommy?”
“Yes! Yes! You can have purple wings!” I blurted, relieved to at long last please my relentless little interrogator. Her eyes fluttered with visions of purple feathers as we finished our prayers.
“Can I really have anything I want in Heaven?” Anna asked as I kissed her forehead.
“Yep, anything,” I replied, and turned to leave the room. As I flipped the light switch, I heard Anna whisper one last question: “Mommy, can I have corn on the cob in Heaven?”
“Yes, Sweetie,” I answered with a smile, “you can have all the corn on the cob you want.”
To this day, our family still yearns for the yellow sweetness of this heavenly vegetable; in fact, we have consumed no less than four dozen ears since moving back to the States a few weeks ago.
We can’t get enough of freshly boiled cobs rolled in butter, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. My husband haphazardly chomps at the cob, leaving tufts of missed kernels. I munch methodically from right to left like an old typewriter, occasionally stopping to chew and swallow sweet mouthfuls. Due to expensive orthodontics, Anna gnaws at the youngest kernels on the ends and trims the rest off with a knife. Lilly takes spiral bites around the cob like an apple peeler. Hayden, who despises all vegetables, seems disgusted by our shameless display of gluttony.
When every cob has been stripped of its golden pearls, we sit swollen, with buttered cheeks, giggling about the stuff stuck between our teeth.
We, the People of this great Nation, possess the unalienable right to enjoy distinctly American Corn on the Cob, a liberty which one should never take for granted. Give me hot buttered ears or give me death, I say! Let freedom and the dinner bell ring!
“Coffee? Tea?” the lanky flight attendant mouthed from above my seat. I pulled my complimentary headphones off to tell her “No thanks,” but regretted the decision a half hour later when I started feeling like I was in a fruit dehydrator and the flight attendant was way up in first class, most likely serving some businessman his second glass of champagne.
My three kids and I were halfway into a nine hour flight, on our way back to the United States after a military tour in Germany. My husband was already at our new duty station in Florida, and was planning to pick us up at the Jacksonville Airport later that evening.
The military travel agency neglected to arrange for us to be seated together, and Luftansa merely smirked when I asked to change our seat assignments. From my isle seat in 29B, I could only see the kids if I stood up on my tray table and used binoculars, and even then I could only see the tops of their heads. Lilly, age 10 was at 39D, surrounded on either side by college kids. Anna, age 13 was behind Lilly at 40D, and my 16-year-old, Hayden, was against a window at 43A.
With four hours down, and five to go, I said a little prayer that there were enough movies and snacks to keep them entertained all the way home.
From my isle seat against the bulkhead, I was just a few feet from the only restrooms in economy class. Not only did I see just about every passenger on my side of the plane pull when they should have pushed the bathroom doors, I heard scores of those characteristic sucking flushes that makes one wonder where it all goes. A line started building up past my seat (it was about 45 minutes after the coffee service after all,) requiring me to sit facing forward for fear that if I turned my head, the tip of my nose might brush against someone’s hip.
A little while later I heard the clank of the lunch cart, and started getting excited. No, I wasn’t hungry. I’m never hungry during airline travel, perhaps because my intestines sense that I will be sitting for hours on end, and go completely dormant. So every peanut, pretzel, stale roll with butter pat, mushy noodle, and fruit gelatin square I consume lays in my stomach for the entire flight, completely undigested.
The back up of undigested material actually makes the flight even more physically uncomfortable, if that is possible, yet I get eagerly accept the lousy morsels offered out of sheer boredom.
“Would you like the Asian chicken or vegetarian pasta?” the voice from above asked. I chose the former, envisioning something similar to the Szechuan dish I like to order from King’s Palace when I’m feeling hormonal. A tiny rectangular tray is placed before me with a roll, butter, cheese wedge, a square dish with a gelatinous fruit dessert, and a foil covered container.
Peeling back the foil, I discovered that the “Asian chicken” looked nothing like my beloved Szechuan dish. I ate it anyway, savoring every mediocre bite, just for the entertainment value.
As I hunched over the sections of my little rectangular tray, I wondered how the airline chefs sleep at night.
The Indian businessman beside me was also hunched over his vegetarian pasta. His elbows were tucked compactly at his sides, his hands hovered over his tray while his fingers tore at the little packages, shoving tiny bits into his mouth while his eyes darted. It occurred to me that just about everyone in economy class ate in this manner. It was as if we were all a bunch of squirrels nibbling at our acorns.
After the trays had been taken away, I went back to find the kids happily engrossed in their seat back televisions. I decided to use the opportunity to take a little catnap.
I always envision myself cradled comfortably against my travel pillow’s C-shaped contour, but I inevitably awaken with my head fallen forward so I look half dead, or worse, cocked back with my mouth wide open. No matter which way my head falls, my spine is always compressed into temporary scoliosis and my rear end goes completely numb. I can feel new spider veins bursting forth on my thighs.
For the next two hours, I dozed uncomfortably, contorting my body into every imaginable position, every one seemingly more painful than the next.
I finally gave up on rest, just when the snack cart appeared. This time I chose the vegetarian pizza, which was a rectangular slab of dough upon which was smeared some kind of cheeseless orange sauce, and embedded with tiny fragments of vegetable material, to include a German pizza topping favorite – corn.
Soon after snack service, the airplane began its gradual descent and we hit turbulence. It felt like the corn, Asian Chicken and fruit gelatin were playing lawn darts in my stomach. I closed my eyes and reached for the armrests, awkwardly caressing the Indian businessman’s hand which had beat me to it.
I heard a commotion and opened my eyes to see the flight attendant grabbing paper towels out of the restroom. My brain quickly calculated probabilities and reasonable inferences, coming to the surefire conclusion that my daughter Lilly must’ve thrown up.
I craned to look back to her seat, and saw a college girl pinching her nose shut. Everyone was looking into Lilly’s row with a grimace. I waved to the flight attendant and pointed at myself as if to say, “Hi! Remember me? I’m the one who asked to be seated with my kids and was refused!”
It all worked out in the end. The college boy who was seated right next to Lilly and who got hit by “friendly fire” was quite understanding. We were able to get Lilly some fresh clothes after retrieving our luggage. And, best of all, Daddy was there waiting at the Jacksonville Airport as promised. Our family is finally on solid ground again.