Eliseo and I arrived in the USA safely late Tuesday night. I was sooo glad when we finally landed in Redding. That was one tough trip! You may think that since I’m home all day long with 12 children, traveling with just 1 would be a breeze. When I walked through the airport doors and saw Daniel’s mom and my sister in law Deborah waiting for me, I was about as relieved as when after a long labor, they place the new baby in my arms. I said to Deborah, “That was about the most difficult thing I’ve ever done!”
Do you want to hear about it? Promise me you won’t laugh. Well, actually, you can laugh. When I think back on that trip I #1 thank the Lord He helped me through it and that I arrived safely, #2 I sometimes laugh, and #3 I sometime cry thinking that I have to repeat the process in about a week. Hopefully I’ve learned a few things from my first trip that will help make the next one easier. And if you have any pointers, feel free to share.
We left the house Tuesday morning a couple hours after breakfast. I spent the morning packing. I was determined to make everything fit in my carry on luggage as you have to pay now to check in baggage; I was very happy when I finally got the zipper on my mini suitcase zipped tight.
When Daniel’s brother Samuel came back the week before, he’d accidentally brought back with him some new parts for another brother’s boat. That brother asked if I’d bring them back with me when I flew. One of the parts was a fuel line...it was a long hose with some rubber thing attached to it. I had to take it out of the plastic packaging to make it fit in my bag but my wise hubby thought to include the paperwork just in case it raised some red flags with homeland security.
We got to the airport early, checked in and since we had an hour before I needed to board, Daniel treated us all to a farewell lunch. We got back to the airport, kissed and hugged everyone, and got in line at the gate. At this point, Eliseo realized that his 11 siblings were gone and instead he was surrounded by strangers. Eliseo can walk or at least easily stand by my side and hold my hand. I was counting on him to do just that from time to time. But he was clinging to my neck so hard and would cry if I even attempted to put him down.
So I had my carry on suit case packed to the max, my big diaper bag, my purse, and my laptop/paperwork bag...and Eliseo who happens to be one of our bigger children for his age and was seemingly gaining weight by the minute.
Since anytime our family goes anywhere together, no matter how quiet we try to be, we seem to draw attention to ourselves. We all walk in a line as to not “block traffic” and when people see a line of children that doesn’t seem to end, they either gasp, stare, smile, whisper, and always begin to count.
And since the children had dropped me off at the gate, I was now “known” by my fellow passengers (mostly all Americans) and when I finally managed to get my shoes and coat back on (hard to do with an almost 2 year old clinging to your neck) and my bags strapped back together so I could begin the long walk out to the plane, one of them took pity on me and carried all my bags.
Since we flew out at 3 pm and Eliseo had not had a nap that day, I was counting on him sleeping...which he did...for about 30 minutes. He woke up, didn’t know where he was and began to cry. There is an unwritten rule in an airplane...at least I felt there was at that moment...especially and airplane filled with mostly wealthy retired people returning from visiting their vacation homes...the rule is: Babies are cute and fine until they begin to cry and in the event they do cry, they are allotted 10 seconds of such behavior and then must be silent.
I had anticipated some fussing, so I quickly grabbed his juice and a bag of treats I’d packed. He settled down and when he’s finished his snack was content to play with the little fold down table tray for a while. He began to get fussy again so I took him to the bathroom...no, I didn’t have to use it, but it was the only place to walk with him and he was happy and calm then. We sat back down and we played puppet with the air plane “in case of sickness” bag. But suddenly, Eliseo began to cry again...really loud. Nothing would console him. He was perfectly happy one minute and then suddenly began to cry. My only consolation was that another younger couple behind me had a little girl who sometimes cried louder than he did. I soon found out the reason behind his cry. I should have kept Mr. bag puppet out as Eliseo’s not so little snack he’d eaten came right back up. Most of it made it into my hand. I grabbed the receiving blanket out of the diaper bag and cleaned us up. At least he was happy again. I’m not sure how happy everyone else was though.
We finally landed and as the okay was given for everyone to get up and gather their things, Eliseo again, seeing all these strangers stand up around him, began to wail. The man behind me said, “Oh, he’s just doing what the rest of us feel like doing but are too old to do.” I thought that was nice; although I’m sure we were part of the reason everyone felt like wailing too.
I picked up my purse, diaper bag, and lap top bag and managed to get off the plane. All larger carry-on items were waiting on a cart at the bottom of the stairs. I dropped all my other bags, grabbed the suitcase, and then tried to get everything strapped back together so I could carry it to the shuttle that was waiting. Again, someone took pity upon me and helped me carry everything into the bus.
At that point I thought that spending some money to check in my bags would have been money well spent.
The Los Angeles airport is huge. You have to walk...a lot. We first had to get down to the lower floor to go through customs. I’m sure there must have been an elevator, but I didn’t think to ask and began to descend the 40+ stairs. The wheels on the bottoms of your suitcase do not work well on stairs. I then began to really miss my husband who could have easily carried Eliseo and twice the baggage that I was trying to carry. My arms felt like spaghetti noodles and we had so far to go still.
Everyone around me seemed to know perfectly well what they were doing. I was totally lost. I finally found someone who could direct me where to go to catch my next flight. We had to walk outside quite a ways; Eliseo was happy to be outside and even let me put him down and we began walking over to the next building. Once we go inside, I was told to go to the second floor to get my boarding pass. This time, I found the elevator! Boarding pass in hand, I was directed to my gate on the 3rd floor. I went back to the elevator; the doors began to close and I saw Eliseo reach for them. My heart sunk, I said, “Oh no!”, but it was too late. They closed right on his fingers! I immediately pressed the open door button, but nothing. I pressed the help button...nothing. Eliseo was screaming, I was crying, and finally, after about 10-15 seconds, the doors opened up. Nobody was by the elevator, so I got out, sat down on my suitcase and comforted my little guy and prayed. His fingers were swollen, and the skin was dented. He calmed down, and thankfully, he was able to move them fine and seemed to be recovering from the ordeal.
Again, I was lost. Since I had taken the elevator instead of the stairs or escalator, I came out at a different point. I could see the lines of people below me waiting to go through security to get to their gates, but I didn’t see how to get to them. I just followed the walk way until some people started running toward me waving their arms saying, “NO!” I explained my situation and they said, well, you can’t get to the gate lines from the elevator. I asked them if I had to go back down the elevator and take the stairs ??? They seemed to not know what to say to that question, so they told me to wait, went and talked to some people, and then said, “Follow me”. They led me right to the front of the line. Thank you, Lord!
I finally managed again to get my coat off, shoes off, watch off, Eliseo’s coat off, his shoes off, and all of my bags up on the belt to get scanned...all while holding Eliseo who was not about to be put down at that point. I walked through waiting for my bags. I got our shoes and coats, but no bags. Finally I see them all looking at that fuel line through the x-ray machines. They then pulled all my bags to the side and while they were searching through them, a lady came up to me and said, “I need to do a body search on you.” Off to the side we went. I will say, she was very polite and discreet...I guess as much as you can be doing what you have to do in that situation. I was finally determined to be safe and allowed to head to our gate. I looked at the time...4 more hours till our next flight. Now I was REALLY wishing that I had checked in all my bags. You are not allowed to leave any bags, whatsoever, unattended. So wherever we went, our bags had to go too.
By then, I really needed to use the restroom and Eliseo needed a diaper change. I never realized how very timid Eliseo is. He’s fine at home and around our friends, neighbors, and church. He’s not so fine around hundreds of strangers at an airport. And he’s definitely more comfortable around strangers who talk to him in Spanish than in English.
I toted everything into the restroom, and I won’t tell you how Eliseo unlocked our door at a very inopportune time and tried to crawl under the next stall over. It was a very long 4 hours. There was a Burger King, but I didn’t know how I could possibly carry Eliseo, all our luggage, and a tray of food over to a table, so we went to the little snack store and bought a power bar and some trail mix to share. A man who had been on our first flight gave me all his pesos he had left over :) and another man must have thought we looked thirsty and bought us some bottled water.
Thirty minutes before we had to board, Eliseo fell asleep. They called those with small children to board first and have you ever noticed how once a child falls asleep they are extra heavy to carry? A man helped me carry my bags to the plane. I finally managed to get to my seat, store my things, and keep Eliseo asleep...only, it wasn’t my seat. I looked at the wrong boarding pass, so again, move everything and get reseated. I was so happy Eliseo was still asleep; my arm was hurting so badly from holding him, but I dared not move for fear of awaking him.
We took off, all was well, and then we hit turbulence. And Eliseo awoke. And cried. And he did this off and on the entire flight. And I was so tired and so sore and felt so badly as everyone around me was trying to rest as it was late. It was a long flight...and I was so happy when it was over...and so were the other 100 people on board. I was so weak from holding Eliseo I couldn’t even stand up. A man helped me up, two others carried my things and I said I was so sorry and appreciated their patience with us. They were so kind and said, “Oh, it’s been a long day.” That it was! So what do you think? Laugh or cry?? :)
Next time, I’m checking in my ALL my luggage.