Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.
I remember what the old days were like. Leisure and bliss, that’s what. Stroll down aisle. Find seat. Arrange optimal carry-on access. Sit. Close eyes. Nap? Or read. Gaze out the window. Yum, is that airplane food I smell? (My wife says I’m abnormal for looking forward to meals on planes.) Nap or read some more. Listen to music. While eating. Or reading. Go crazy and do all three. Land. Stretch, grab carry-on, deplane, arrive. Refreshed.
That was life before Enoch. After he came along, our first flight was home for Christmas when he was five months old. In those days, just getting out of the house with him was a challenge. Doing it with luggage and then having to check it all in at the airport? It hardly felt familiar to anything I’d done before. We had way too much stuff. I started getting flustered as we stumble-bumble-fumbled through security. Up went the stress a few more notches when I looked at the time and saw we would have to hurry if we were going to make it. I tried to think what day it was, and if it was the same one we’d left home on. As we speed-clunked to our gate with our carry-ons, I felt irritated with every person standing remotely in my way. We arrived to find the flight had already boarded. The airline staff took our stubs and hustled us through.
We arrived at the mouth of the plane aisle, and panic set in. I squinted toward our seats. Had nobody seen all our stuff? Why hadn’t we been pre-boarded?
Oh right, late. But how are we supposed to get all this stuff back there? And another thing, what is WRONG with us? People have been having kids since like forever—it doesn’t seem it should be this hard.
I glanced at little Enoch’s face. Oblivious.
Buddy, you cannot walk, you cannot talk, and bringing you has turned this into something like no other trip I’ve ever taken.
Babies, who really cannot do anything that might be called…useful, have luggage and accessory requirements rivaling those of a touring Maharaja. I was baptized that day. In spite of having been warned ahead of time by more people than I could count, I came to know deep in my soul right there on that plane: my life really was never going to be the same. Sure, the change kids make would grow to become an expected, welcome part of life, a humorous familiarity, a point of commonality with friends and strangers alike. But that day was revelation itself as The Question was born. I came later to call it The Mantra Question. No father forgets his first encounter with The Mantra Question:
How can one…little person…require
We pushed, pulled, lifted, and wrestled Mr. Maharaja’s stuff down the aisle. A stroller (you could bring them in those days!), Tammy’s carry-on, Tammy’s purse, the diaper bag, a toy bag, loose toys, Enoch’s blankie, Enoch’s carry-on, a sippy cup, my carry-on. I vowed the next time to get serious. Either go all the way and bring that kitchen sink, or else eliminate my own stuff entirely. If I couldn’t wear it, I would leave it. Or burn it.
We inched closer to our seats, banging a cadence to my chanting while I willed four consecutive empty overhead bins into being. When at last we got to our row, I checked our seat mates for cobwebs and began formulating a plan for hoisting the stockpile overhead. Then it hit me: the baby.
What am I supposed to do with the baby?
I had no plan, I had no experience. The floor?
No, I don’t think I can put him on the floor.
The flight attendants were seating other stragglers. Tammy and I needed all four hands in our scramble to get stowed before takeoff. What was that wonderful smell coming from the galley?
Forget that! Focus.
I scanned wildly for a friendly face. A guy three rows back made eye contact. Good enough. I got to him in one leap.
In later years, in optimistic moods, I would most of the time be almost definitely fairly sure that I had waited for his response before leaving Enoch in his arms.
I was back to Tammy in a flash and we got everything overhead in record time, triumphantly utilizing a final scrap of luggage to wedge tight the travel stroller that had been refusing to stay up. Then I saw her face: vexed. Extremely vexed. Not at falling strollers, but at failing husbands, husbands who passed off offspring to strangers. So I found a bin door latch that didn’t need tinkering and tinkered, which blocked mom’s access to the aisle; she sat. I leapt. I found our son gazing into the wide grin of his benefactor.
“Thanks, man,” I said.
His laugh and loud “No problem” drew chuckles from everyone around.
I plopped my sweating self into a seat at last, and now had thoughts only for my defense. I needed something…witty. To create a diversion, to save my skin in the coming onslaught. But a sideways glance revealed the danger had passed. In spite of her best efforts, the corners of Tammy’s mouth were turning up and she shook her head. The laughter had already saved me.
Today’s excerpt is from chapter “Fabulously Harebrained.”
This has been Part 2 of a 5-part Book Excerpt Series in the run-up to Orphan Sunday on November 8.
Stay tuned for details before the end of the series on how you can pre-order your own copy of Lily Was the Valley: Undone by Adoption.
Thanks for reading!