If you’ve ever seen me amidst my travels with my family, you may be one of the people aghast in the airport. Let me set the stage for those of you who may not know. My wife Jen and I have 8 amazing children.
I try to ignore it, but as we travel people can’t help but make comments. These comments are heard loud and clear. They are absorbed and stored away. Anything from “They must be mormon” (I was raised LDS), or “do they know what causes that?”, maybe just a simple: “Wow, Mom and Dad, Wow!“, an occasional “Oh my God are they busy!?”. The comments aren’t necessarily negative. Occasionally they are just a bit right on the nose. And sometimes they may even give you pause, or put a tear in your eye.
I don’t blame any of these people. It’s an absolute spectacle to behold. Imagine getting on a plane with 8 children?! Now imagine keeping 8 children safe as you pass thru security, into both swimmingly public bathrooms, changing a diaper, passing out snacks…Imagine trying to feed 8 kids any damn day of the week let alone while passing thru the Midway airport in Chicago.
I remember we were once in the Denver airport for less than 30 minutes. Thanks to a series of snow storms across the West, and delayed flights, the Airport in Denver was particularly busy. We had our own delay leaving Columbus, for a flight with a departure time that was already after 6pm.
This obstacle began our trip in an already frenzied pace and way off of a practical dinner schedule. Before we even left Columbus, we had blown thru the cooler bag of snacks we had packed. By the time our crew got to Denver? We could have eaten a fellow passenger.
When we realized our connecting flight out of Denver was actually on time? It came as BAD news. Now upon landing we had less than 20 minutes to pee, eat, find the new terminal and the new gate and get on the plane!
We moved in a blur. Stuffed animals hanging loosely from partially zipped back packs, running in what had to look like unsynchronized chaos. Somehow we did it. I Bought two packs of bagels and a tub of cream cheese without even breaking pace. We charged thru the bathrooms like a Nascar pit crew. Then it was off to the races, ultimately sprinting thru two entire terminals to make our entrance at the right gate.
My wife Jen and I were each holding one the youngest two children. All of us were wearing heavy back packs. Jen and I were passing out bagels like a frisbee toss (I’m pretty sure someone else’s kid got one of those bagels), each of us mad-hatter multitasking with a bagel in our mouths also. It had a total Family Circus feel.
But When you are in a traveling herd, you’ve surrendered to the embarrassment. You simply embrace the spectacle you’re creating.
So in record time, we’ve fed, peed, navigated, guided, located our destination and sprinted to a gate that couldn’t have been further from the one we arrived from. As this whirling dervish traveling show finally turned the last corner and charged to the closing door of the departure gate – a bizarre thing happened.
The seated passengers who were awaiting the flight after ours must have simultaneously seen us coming. It had to be a shocking sight. One that triggered an appropriate reaction in that bustling Denver airport. They all broke out in applause. An applause that filled the entire space. An authentic, loving, warm your heart kind of applause. I can be moved. Even in the most hectic and crazed paces, I can stop and be moved. I paused just long enough to absorb the faces and the applause.
Some of them rose to their feet and applauded. Grandpas and Grandmas, business men, fellow Fathers who were traveling alone. All stopped to applaud. I instantly had my energy renewed. I took the bagel from my mouth, wiped the sweat from my eyes that was now mixed with tears and cream cheese and I paused long enough to let the warmth sink in. I saluted, took a bow for the crowd and spun to walk thru the security door.
There was a huge smile on the gate attendants face as she handed me our 10 boarding passes. I took a last look at these strangers smiling faces, and turned to take up the rear of our family parade as we bounced down the empty jetway.
Yeah..I kinda miss traveling.
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