airport delays and other unexpected delights

We all headed to the airport yesterday morning with about 85 million other Americans, ready to pack planes and get home to Real Life, which started up again this morning at 8:25. Yesterday morning at 8:25, I was using rather extreme exhortations to get our family into the rental car so that we could all get to the airport on time for our flight. With the new security guidelines changing by the minute– plus the fact that those traveling with small children get segregated into an even slower line– I figured we had to hurry. We had a 90 minute drive ahead of us.

Five minutes before we arrived at the airport, I checked our flight status on my phone and saw that it had suddenly acquired a delay of an hour and fifteen minutes. My heart sank; Iam a cranky traveler and my husband is even worse. “We’ll have time to get the kids a good breakfast,” I told him, and we took some comfort there.

While we waited at Sam Snead’s Tavern near the security checkpoint for our French toast to arrive, an ominous sign: our departure time on the screen changed from “12:30” to the much more vague “DELAYED.” We worked our 21st century smart phones and deduced that our plane had not yet left the NYC area, and would have to do so– and fly to Florida– before we could board.

“We’ll definitely get on by like, 2,” David said, as we let the kids stay in the gift shop for as LONG AS THEY WANTED. They couldn’t believe their good luck. Can I have a Cinnabon Mommy? Sure! Can I buy a treat at this tragically overpriced gift shop, something I will certainly lose well before we reach our final destination? Why, yes!

The kids were having a really good time. This was a revelation. They did not know that a long (and increasing) delay was supposed to be their worst nightmare. They were enjoying themselves thoroughly. As I begin 2010, the year I get happier, it was wonderful to be reminded that even an airport delay can be pleasant, with the right mindset.

Then our flight got pushed back to 3 p.m. Then 4:30. Then 5:15. “When are we going to AIRPORT?” Maggie said, wondering just how long we were going to hang out at this lame mall. The boys lay on the filthy carpet near gate C-12, watching a movie on my laptop till its battery went dead. Even their good humor began to show some signs of wear, starting when Connor gave his brother a good kick in the frank n beans for no particular reason.

My resolution changed. I was no longer going to pretend that any of us were having a good time. I was going to get home, no matter how long it took, without yelling at any of my children OR MY HUSBAND. Since none of this was their fault, either.

We finally landed at Newark Airport at 8 p.m., somehow managing to elude the lockdown that had occurred while we were in the air. All three children fell asleep on the hard metal chairs, designed expressly to prevent comfort or sleeping, while we waited 40 minutes for our checked bags. And then we were home, just a short 13 hours after we left.

Days like that suck. But the next day, they’re kind of awesome. I survived, and now, I have a good story. AND I didn’t yell at the kids. See? It was a day of making memories. My happiness project is working out so far.