The Insider’s Report: Not Exactly the High Mile Club

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“WHEWWW-WEEE…LOOK HOW LONG THAT AIRPLANE’S PENIS IS!!”

Our six-year-old son, Junior, stood staring and pointing at the gas line fueling the plane outside of the airport window.

“That’s the biggest penis I’ve ever seen!” He continued with the penis commentary before either my partner, Jenn, or I could set down our eight dollar cup of airport coffee and wrestle him to the ground, as if he were indeed a terrorist trying to board the plane.

It seemed to be a reasonable compromise to combine our two annual vacations, our family trip that we take with our son and our romantic trip that my partner and I take together. This was a solution that combined both the trips’ budgets and the few vacation days that remained after purchasing and remodeling a home earlier this year. The itinerary was to board a direct flight from Nashville to Los Angeles . We would then rent a mini-van and drive six hours from Los Angeles to Monterey , Calif. , the most romantic place on earth and the place Jenn and I plan to retire. The two days spent there would account for the romantic days of the trip while the other eight days spent at Disney Land , Magic Mountain and Sea World would be the family part.

Junior would only have to sacrifice two days, although he would do so unknowingly and against his will. Besides, he was only six and would be completely oblivious to the secret retirement planning Jenn and I would be doing with the, “I can’t wait until…” and the “how much longer until…” conversations. We would distract him with the native sea lions playing upon the rocks in order to steal a few kisses and share some glances of commitment and adoration for one another. We would still go to our favorite, romantic restaurant and sit next to the window to enjoy the breath-taking view, order expensive wine and eat elegant meals of freshly prepared seafood and chowders. Of course, Junior will have a grilled cheese and french fries, but this will not dampen the romance. Oh sure, he’ll interrupt us at least 56 times (that’s his average per meal), but we will have a semblance of romance. I already know just how fast those two days will pass. All of the sweetness, the closeness, those few special sex-filled-intimacy-at-the-core-now-I-remember-why-I-married-you-to-begin-with days that get marriages through the remainder of the year would be over in a blink.

We would then be forced onto the family leg of the trip. We as a group of three, armed for the masses, will move on to the world of make believe–the happiest place on earth, complete with mile long lines, sweaty strangers and other people’s sticky children. Yes, we would search out Mickey and Minnie for a picture, wear mouse ears all day and pay an exorbitant price for bottled water. Jenn and I would spend the day wishing we had eyes in the back of our head to watch for bad people who want to snatch our boy away from us.

We would say things like, “Do you have him? I don’t see him.”

“Yes, he’s right here beside me.”

“I couldn’t see him. Don’t let him wander off.”

One of us would take offense. “Do you think you take better care of him than I do? I’m not an idiot, I’m not gonna let him wander off.”

“I’m just saying, keep a close watch on him. There are so many people.”

So far, our trips with Junior have been close enough to drive and usually didn’t last longer than five days out of the normal routine of home. Anything longer than five days had always been thought to be over stimulating for the young one resulting in moodiness, whining and temper tantrums. And really, who wants to see two grown women throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a hotel lobby…or worse, on the side of the highway.

We hadn’t even left the airport and already I had my doubts that expanding his horizons with the new adventure of flying at such a young age was a good idea. First of all, I am a “check it all” kind of girl. I do not like to carry baggage onto the plane, argue with other passengers about whose overhead bin is whose. On the romantic trips, my needs are met, baggage theories respected, and I am appeased. On the family trip, I had to lug a portable DVD player (so that we could watch "Finding Nemo"), a kids back pack filled with raisins, goldfish crackers, juice packs and a Game Boy, and luggage with a change of clothes, in case there was a spill or pee-pee mishap. My needs were not being met.

I felt the glare of the other passengers as I struggled down the aisle of the plane knocking innocent people in the face with electronic devices and rolling across their toes with the snack wagon. And all of this was with the added bonus of having the airport boy who cried “penis” in tow. I felt the passengers’ thoughts looming over us. Their selfish prayers and bargains were in unison. “Oh God, please don’t let them sit behind me.” “Two lesbians and a kid on a four hour flight…please God…what did I ever do to you?” “If you make them sit somewhere else, I’ll give up gambling.” “Please God, I’ll never touch another drink if you just keep them moving down the aisle.”

As pathetic as they were, I knew how they felt. I wasn’t really sure how I would get through this flight. I mean, after you’ve seen "Finding Nemo" once…you’ve seen it. And how many times can you tell a kid that he can’t go to the bathroom again. It’s like being in Vegas at the roulette table. How do you really know if this pee plea is for real or just another attempt to flee the boredom of sitting in his window seat?

Yes, he got my seat, the window seat. That is the seat that I usually sit in on the romantic trips allowing Jenn to lay against my shoulder. I get to kiss the top of her head, read magazine articles to her shop with her in SkyMall magazine. We plan on buying each other the ridiculous items found in the magazine like an alarm clock that displays palm trees on the wall while you sleep and a wrist watch that takes pictures. We make plans to steal the magazine and take it with us so that we can order Christmas gifts for our friends and family. There have even been times while sharing the window seat, under the cover of an airline blanket that we have fooled around, all the while giggling like newlyweds. Yes, time passes so beautifully and quickly on the romantic trips.

But on the family trip I was sequestered to the aisle seat where time virtually stands still. The only thing on my shoulder was the corner of the beverage cart as it was rammed down the aisle by an over-zealous flight attendant. The closest thing to fooling around came from saying about 113 times through clenched teeth, “stop fooling around and quit kicking the back of that ladies seat.” I tried reading a magazine only to be met with Junior’s desire to know more things, hence Jenn’s idea to expand his horizons.
“What are you reading?” he asked.

“NewsWeek.”

“What’s it about?”

“Grown-up stuff,” I answered patiently.

“Like parent and teacher night at school?”

“Yes, just like that.”

He got excited. “Wow…let me see…is there a picture of my teacher in the magazine?”

Realizing that private time was just a pipedream, I decided to change the activity to one that would include him. “Tell you what” I said. “Why don’t we play the cloud game? Look out of your window and tell me what shapes you see. I see a bunny. Do you see it?”

“Ummm…” He looked around. “Ummm…” he continued to look. “Ummm…”

Oh for Christ sakes! “Honey, the bunny is right there. Do you see it now?!” I asked, pointing towards the fictitious cloud that I had chosen to be the bunny figure.

“I see a wolf that is eating the bunny. And there are blood and bunny guts everywhere. And now the wolf is spitting the blood on Spider Man. And Spider Man is mad, and he throws the wolf.”

His mother and I just looked at each other. We’re not sure if this is normal boy behavior or if we should be alarmed. The blood and guts was a new phase of conversation that had recently been added to the already enjoyable topics of bathroom words and body part acknowledgement. It was amazing to us just how easy it was for a kid to direct a conversation of something as mundane as choosing a shirt to that of his penis and the mispronounced female part of "bagina." For whatever reason, he just doesn’t hear the “v.”

“Honey, which shirt do you want to wear tomorrow, the red one or the blue one?”

“I don’t know. Let me ask my penis. Penis, what’s your favorite color? Penis says Red. Red is for penis and blue is for bagina.” Who could argue with that? Red it is.

“Do you see it, Mommy? Do you see Spider Man smashing the wolf?” Junior asked, bringing Jenn into the game.

Jenn tried to change the focus. “Look at that cloud over there. It looks like a flower. A sweet flower blowing in the wind. Do you see the pretty little flower?” she asked.

“You mean the one the bloody wolf just sat on? It went up his butt!” This image launched the boy into song, loud enough to entertain the entire plane. The wolf has a flower in his buuttt…the wolf has a flower in his buuttt…”

The word “butt” is always followed with great giggles in our home. Even when it is used as a conjunction between two sentences. For instance, “Yes, you can have a cookie now, but…”–uncontrollable laughter, followed by a lack of focus, resulting in a lesson presented in vain. This was the cycle that haunted our house and made raising a kindergartner a project of both patience and tiresome repetitiveness.

To stop the singing and to change the subject, we moved onto plan “snack attack.” We pulled out the goldfish crackers. The huge bag kept him quiet for a few minutes. Then the entertainment ante had to be upped.

“Hey Mom, watch me throw this in the air and catch it with my mouth.”

Before he could be stopped, a handful of about eight crackers flew high, hitting the overhead bin and scattering throughout the two rows in front of us and the unfortunate souls directly behind us. But, none went into his mouth. This prompted him to try again. It was with this second try that I witnessed one of the miracles of life that reminded me just why it was that we had decided for Jenn to carry the baby and not me. With the intensity of a gazelle on a hunt, Jenn, with great gentleness and firmness, grabbed the child’s hand that was crammed with goldfish with her left hand and gently touch the older lady in front of her with an apology about the crackers that were now lodged in her hair-do. Then, while continuing to squeeze her offspring’s little hand, crushing the crackers but not his bones, she turned to shake the hand of the couple sitting behind us. Once apologies were handed out, she released the boy’s hand filled with the remains of the goldfish crackers who had met their untimely death.

“Oohhh…you got fish guts in your hands,” I said, joking with him. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t a good choice. He started to cry at the thought of having something gross on his hands. “Get it off!…get it off!” I was staring right into that glare my wife uses in such moments as these. It’s the glare that says, “If I weren’t already married to you, I would probably rethink it.”

Now that snack time was over, we directed his attention to Nemo. I dragged out the DVD player, knocking a sturdy piece of Hartman luggage onto the head of the gentleman accompanying the cracker hair lady. Yes, I am most definitely a “check it all” kinda girl.

“Nemo is a poo-poo head. I want to watch Yu-Gi-Oh,” our sweet, well-adjusted child said.

“We didn’t bring Yu-Gi-Oh, we brought Nemo. Now lets put it in and watch it.” My patience was wearing thin. Rightfully so, as I was now worrying about the pending lawsuit from the man with the bruise on his bald spot sitting in front of me.

“I don’t want to watch it. He is a poo-poo head and has fart breath.”

“Look,” Jenn said. “We have these cool head phones that you can plug in and listen to the movie with. You will be special. There is only one pair.” She always knew how to talk him into doing things that he opposed for no good reason.

He put on the head set, I turned on the player and opened the DVD case to insert the movie.

I closed it and opened it again.

Surely, if I close it and open it a third time, the disc will appear in the case and will not be at home in the DVD player in the living room. “Please God, if you let this DVD appear in this case when I open it, I promise I will never have another drink.”

No DVD.

And so the three of us, our little family, sat in a row on the airplane, covered in dried tears and cracker crumbs, emotionally isolated from our fellow passengers. We sat in silence waiting to begin our combo vacation of romance and family bonding. Of course, for the vacation to begin, our plane would have to first leave the runway in Nashville.

Read the continuation in the June edition.