What Kind of Creature are You?

Mbot Fly 4

After a recent bath, Mbot, in his winged Red Fish towel, realized he might be wearing a garment that would allow him to fly. “Mom! I’m going to fly!” he announced. He mounted the steps of his bunk bed.

He raised his arms wide.

He leapt.

He landed. Ker-plop.

I waited.

He said: “I think I need to start from higher.”

He climbed higher.

He raised his arms wide.

He leapt.

He landed, ker-plop.

He said: “I think I need to flap my arms faster.”

 

 

Mbot Fly 3

He climbed up again. He raised his arms wide. He leapt. He flapped.

He landed, ker-plop.

He looked at me. He said, “I think I’m more of a gliding creature.”

And that was the end of that.

I thought, my heavens, if everyone figured out the truth about their own natures–and accepted it–so readily, what a different world we’d live in. I wondered about myself and some of my own unfulfilled ambitions, the terrycloth fins I spread.

Even if we dream of being flying creatures, is it so bad to discover that we are only gliding creatures, in the end?

 

Mbot Fly 2

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Airplane Tip #28: Traveling With “Help” May Not Be Helpful

If only I could just carry on the whole rental couch, traveling would be SO much easier.

…Unless the help is hired, in which case they should fear being fired and so will respond favorably to a dirty look thrown at them with the force of a grenade. Help in the form of relatives, however, especially older adult relatives, cannot be fired.

I gleaned this tip, which I’m only guessing is #28, on Friday, traveling home from the beach, with Grandma, Uncle Marty, and Uncle Sammy.

When you’ve got a 30-month-old and a 48-month-old, no one travels quite like you. I did not realize this until we stood twelfth, thirtheenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth in the security line at John Wayne International Airport. “It will be so much easier for you, flying with us,” Grandma said.

Now, unless “easier” has been redefined to mean “more stressful and irritating,” she was wrong.

Imagine that I use the word “stood” is the loosest of terms, at least in relation to the bots. They were weaving in and out between legs and wheelie carry-ons and spontaneously squatting to snuggle with bears who were strapped to their wheelie carry-ons. I manage these behaviors. I do not restrict them. Do I like my children collecting cooties on the airport floor? No. Do I like that it takes several seconds to corral the bots for a three-foot move forward? No. That they don’t stand still? No. But you makes makes your choices and you takes your chance and this–accomanied by bots–is how I choose to travel. And it always works. We have not contracted any major life-threatening contagions. We have never missed a flight. We have never been the subjects of a lawsuit or been to jail.

On Friday, I was never so aware of our unique way of traveling, pointed out to me by the three adults who felt it necessary to “help” us.

I appreciate a little help from strangers–someone who pushes my fifth bin along the x-ray belt when my hands are otherwise occupied. Or who makes the bots laugh, and therefore stand still, for twenty seconds while I am shoving our boarding passes back into my bra. But I do not need or appreciate others dictating the speed at which we travel or the directness with which we move from Point A to Point B. I say, get a job with the TSA if you want to do that.

But I also realized how strange our travel has become. I realized, standing in the Starbucks line with a fidgeting Mbot and not minding it at all, that the bots and I have become our own little solar system, two little planets revolving at varying speeds and in erratic orbits (that sometimes intersect) around a sun, with one fluffy, oversized moon orbiting each planet and various interplanetay detritus present, asteroids and meteorites in various shapes and form that wreak their own havoc. It is a young solar system, alive with eruptions and quakes–although the sun is gaining mass as it passes through middle age. The whole shebang migrates on an unpredictable course through space, and woe be unto the force that tries to alter that course or the speed at which it progresses.

I realize that we have evolved this way without my realizing it. The universe is expanding, and the space between us and the single, childless travelers and parents who do not fly with their small children–is widening.

Now if I could only stop the expansion of that solar system’s sun….

I Picture Making Myself A Giant Pair of Wings

I do not have dreams in which I perform exhilarating acts of athleticism. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, reports experiencing dynamic mountain descents on skis and bicycles whether he is conscious or not.

I tend to dream things like my entire family is a herd of elk.

But yesterday, a conversation with Husbot triggered a memory of a dream in which I could fly.

Because yesterday we were at the zoo. We’d made it past the giraffes, the zebras, and the peach-faced lovebirds to the very furthest corner, the home of the white rhino. (He is white like my car  is blue–in name only, before the dust settled.) After marveling at the double horn that almost doubled the size of his already massive head, and at his whole unbelievably prehistorical self in general, we retreated to a bench to eat our picnic lunch beside a pen in which two furry sleeping balls balanced on a branch above a sign reading “ring-tailed lemurs.”

I asked Mbot what animal he would want to be if he were an animal. He wanted to be the rhino so he could step in the mud.

Gbot wanted, for reasons I have not yet ascertained, to be a warthog.

Then I asked Husbot.

“A peach-faced love-bird,” he replied.

He was joking, but he insisted he’d want to be a bird.

Why? I asked, to the obvious answer:

“So I could fly.”

And then I remembered my dream, the one in which I could fly.

It was the most remarkable feeling, flying. It was an exhilarating freedom, soaring on wings over rooftops. There were a few of us up there, although I can’t remember exactly who they were. It was so lovely and so…quiet.

It was quiet because as long as we were aloft, borne on our own wings, we could not speak.

We had to descend to perch on wires and fence posts in order to talk to one another. While we were flying, we were mute, isolated in our freedom.

I was glad to remember that dream. To recall not only the visceral thrill of soaring weightless through space, but the limitations that accompany achieving such freedom.

Then a herd of schoolchildren approached, trampling the calm and raising dust and hooting at the lemurs to awaken them, perhaps from dreams of flight.

Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston

My mother called the other day. We no longer live in the same house, or even the same time zone, but we talk several times a week. “I have to tell you about the dream I had,” she says.

Now, when most people start a conversation that way, you check your pockets for a cyanide tablet. When Mom starts a conversation that way, you clamp the phone tighter between your shoulder and your ear and wish you weren’t also helping someone use the potty, so you could give her your full attention.

“Do you have time?” she asks.

“Yes,” I fib.

She began. “We were standing side-by-side, about to get onto the plane, because everyone had to board two-by-two, and everyone had to do something different as they boarded. The stewardesses ahead of us had their blouses all bunched into their skirts, for whatever they were doing, and when it came our turn, we had to do the Charleston. Side by side. As we boarded the plane. I remember my main worry was that I was going to lose my purse off my shoulder, because we had to swing our arms, and so I put it over my head, too, you know, around my neck AND my arm. And I remember thinking, thank goodness we don’t have the boys, too. I mean, with your hands on your knees, and the kicking….”

“Don’t tell the TSA,” I warn her. “They just haven’t thought of it yet.”

She had subconsciously regenerated my experience of flying a month ago from Idaho to Arizona, accompanied only by a twenty-two month-old, a thirty-eight month-old, an antique, diabetic carry-on cat, and a stroller provided by my mother, that hadn’t been in service since it had carried my younger brother’s diapered ass in 1971. Diabetes of course means that a lot of peeing can be expected. A collapsible metal stroller thirty-five years old means that, in spite of extensive testing in the garage, where it actually seemed cool, it might collapse with your twenty-two month-old in it, in front of a long line of strangers at the security gate. Whoops.

I have flown fourteen times since Mbot was born: twice with him alone, twice with him and Gbot at T minus two months (literally under my belt. This would be a good time to emphasize not to wear a belt when traveling with small children. Because who will keep them from disappearing while you’re struggling to remove it, and then to put it back on, and in the interim, who will hold your pants up, while your hands are otherwise occupied with mutinous midgets? But then there was that time when it came in handy as a leash.)

I have flown alone with both of them six times. TSA and I have gotten to know each other well. Our most intimate moments occur in that high-stress zone immediately beyond the security gate, where I unscrew bottles of breast milk for them to hold scraps of paper over to ensure that one bottle isn’t nitrogen tetroxide and the other monomethyl hydrazine, while replacing the laptop and re-constructing the stroller and shoving three boarding passes and the cell phone back into my bra (see The Girl Pocket) and replacing the shoes of a toddler and an infant while holding their hands.

I also enjoy the part where you are removing  not only your own shoes but the monster slippers of the two-year old and the dragon slippers of the one-year old, while the single woman behind you with the briefcase and headset tightens her lips impatiently. Am I really misinformed here, or was Al Queda and the Taliban known for its recruitment and inclusion of women? Especially middle-aged white women lugging teddy bears?

I have a list over thirty items long of how to make it through security with infants, toddlers, strollers, and hormonal imbalance, but, having recently flown, I don’t have the energy to write it down.

The only good thing about traveling with small children is that you eventually get where you are going, and you do not have to spend fourteen hours wishing you had a glass divider between the front seats and the back. The only other good thing is that strangers, reminded of how grateful they are not to be you, often offer to help. They carry bags. They attempt to re-construct the stroller. Except when it was built before the first Arab oil embargo and collapses with your child in it. Then they cease making eye contact, no doubt fearing potential liability and also suspecting that you are actually, really, in fact, insane. I pushed over the boundary last time around, with the stroller and the cat. Don’t do. it. I repeat: Do not do it.

Eight hundred words and I haven’t even gotten around to describing the joys of being on board. Even with midgets who are generally quite well-behaved. Even with bags of Goldfish and raisins. Even with two portable DVD players and two magnadoodles and pipe cleaners and crayons and Play Doh and Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

It’s not really flying. It’s falling, with style.

Or without.

Does the end justify the means?