If there is one thing that I learned living in the South, it's that a Southern lady maintains control no matter how badly her children act. This past Christmas as I embarked on a trip with my three daughters, ages 5, 3, and 2, I was determined to maintain Southern composure. Except that I was born and raised in Rome, Italy and Southern composure is the furthest thing from my genetically wired Mediterranean temper.
Because of my husband s profession he is a military pilot - and the unpredictability of his job, I purchased tickets in advance for myself and the girls and decided that I was going to see my home town, Rome, after an absence of almost five years. My trip would take a total of 16 hours with two planes, one from Pensacola, Florida to Atlanta (50 minutes) and the other from Atlanta to Rome (11 hours).
To my enormous surprise, checking in was relatively painless and we boarded the plane to Atlanta uneventfully. The first flight was barely an hour long and my kids played with the toys I brought. A couple of flight attendants and a passenger commented on how well behaved and well mannered my children were and I politely thanked them and soaked in satisfaction. I was displaying Southern composure splendidly. But, as we taxied to the gate, my two year old without warning vomited all over me, herself, the gentleman sitting in front of us (projectile vomit can go between the seats) and the central aisle. Mama, I bart he said, meaning barfed. We were sitting in the front of the plane so the mess was actually between nearly all the other passengers and their freedom. As I reached in my diaper bag to get some wipes, the flight attendant come to the speaker and announced that little sister here in row 5 has had an accident and barfed in the aisle. Please wait for us to clean the way before you leave your seats.
If anyone on the flight missed the action in row 5 when it went down, he or she was in the dark no longer. I began to feel frantic and worried about the smell that seemed to have enveloped us. To make things worse, the plane had come to a complete halt on the taxiway (apparently standard practice when I fly Delta, which I suspect hates me). My children were crying and I asked the flight attendant - with some urgency - if I could use the restroom, but she quickly replied that I had to remain seated until the fasten seat belt sign had been turned off . I was covered in vomit and compulsively tried to get as much as I could off my blouse the little one clothes were a lost cause; I focused on what I could still salvage though I was mostly just rubbing it in. After thirty minutes inside a hot and stinky plane (it could have been 3 hours) we were finally taxied to our gate. The flight attendant proceeded to clean the aisle and we finally exited.
It was now 5:00 pm and I had only 15 minutes to get to my connecting flight, which meant no time to get changed. I run through the terminal, having completely lost my Southern composure (I wonder if I ever even had one) - a crazy Italian woman at the Atlanta Hartsfield airport trying to get from Terminal A to Terminal E in a matter of minutes (naturally the two furthest points in the airport). I desperately pleaded with a man on one of those beeping airport cars to give me a ride but he said he couldn't. I asked: Am I too gross? No, he said he had to pick up a passenger who needed assistance (hello I needed assistance!). Somehow I saw terminal E on the horizon and I made a last mad dash to my gate. We were the last passengers to get on.
After take off, I was able to change my clothes and my daughter's. The rest of the plane ride is long and mostly atrocious and eleven long hours later, we exited the plane anxious to greet my relatives. They asked me how the plane ride went and, even though I was exhausted and looked disheveled, I responded with a perfect Southern smile: No Problem at all. Really not at all. It was just fine. I had lost my Southern composure during the trip but I would certainly end it with style. That bad? said my mom pointing to my hair. As I reached, I felt something stuck to the side of my head a little piece of bart from our first flight. Well, I smiled, there was always next time.
Anita is a free-lance writer and columnist. Her column "Out of the Blue" appears in several newspapers across the country. Anita is currently working on a non-fiction book and maintains a web-site http://www.anitadoberman.com. She is married to an Air Force pilot and they have five children. She can be reached at email@example.com
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