I wrote this post last week, from my parents cosy living room, but could not get my laptop to play nice with my Dad's broadband. So I'm posting it belatedly, since we have now returned to the USA:
We almost did it. We almost got from San Francisco to Buckinghamshire, anxious mum and rather highly strung child, without a single tear or tantrum.
We overcame the first potential pitfall, a serious packing oversight. As we checked in at a mercifully very quiet SFO I realized that I had forgotten “taggies” the beloved blanky. Geekygirl took this in her stride, she was surprisingly sanguine about the absence of this most precious comforter. I was much more concerned, knowing that there would be many challenging situations ahead of us that would be made much easier for a little wide eyed girl if she had the soothing sensation of taggies' well thumbed ribbons between her fingers. We didn’t even have any soft toys with us, so to assuage my guilt at being such a useless mummy (because really, forgetting the blanky, that is automatic failure of mum 101), we swiftly acquired a San Francisco Hello Kitty, a Webkins furry goat and a panda bear neck cushion as potential substitutes. Then, as we were sitting in the café, having checked in the recommended three hours early, my phone rang, and Geekydaddy was on the line. He had got home, grabbed taggies and returned to the airport. The security folk, always very pleasant at SFO, but now raised even higher in my esteem, walked taggies through to us. I got to give Geekydaddy and a now rather confused but still cheery Geekybaby another final wave, and we were truly set to go.
We had another tricky moment. Juggling the portable DVD player, and its headphone, my headphones and my own and Geekygirl’s dinner trays, I managed to knock a cup of water all over Geekygirl. Thankfully the DVD player (Borrowed), escaped the deluge, but Geekygirl was soaked. I had packed a change of clothing, but apparently had chosen an unacceptable shirt. Too small, too stripey and most critically, too scratchy. We were in trouble. I could feel her panic, hemmed into a plane seat with limited choices; no shirt, wet shirt, scratchy shirt. She was tired and worn thin with the effort of remaining calm and cheery for so long in the face of goodbyes, crowds, and too hot hot dogs. Then, we had the brilliant idea of wearing the shirt inside out, and with the bribery of a bit more DVD watching despite it being 10pm, the moment was saved and we were spared the wrath of the rest of the passengers who were hoping to sleep the rest of the way to the UK.
We were both able to get a bit of sleep, waking up with the rest of the plane an hour or so before landing. DVD player stowed for landing, we amused ourselves with the card game “war”, and got a lovely view of London as we flew down the Thames. The landing path took us right over my old College, and I caught a glimpse of the blue copper top of “Queen’s tower” in the main quad. I have such fond memories of my student days in London, and the sight of this, alongside the Royal Albert Hall, with my old biology department nestled in its shadow, energized me to get through the “de-planing” (I still say that is not a real word).
After a smooth landing (Though I’m always horrified by how close the plane comes to the residents of Hounslow), I packed up our scattered belongings (some still damp from the earlier dowsing), hustled Geekgirl into a clean pull up and found her shoes. She obligingly got them both on, we were about to exit our seat when she stood up and howled “My shoes are too small”, and tore them from her feet, crying hysterically. Belatedly, I tried to explain that our feet get a bit bigger while flying and that after walking about they would feel just fine, but no deal. She wasn’t going to put those shoes back on. What to do? I had a hefty back pack, my own purse, a duty free bag and a small “Finding Nemo” back pack to carry, but I could probably just about manage to carry a hysterical almost four year old too. But no, “I want my other shoes” she cried. My extensive preparation had not included packing an alternate pair of shoes in the carry on bags, and I was starting to feel pressured. “Is everyone off the plane?” The chief steward announced on the tannoy. “Two more to unload” our flight attended said back. She came over to us, I gave her a tight smile and let her know we would soon be on our way. She spoke to Geekygirl “What lovely socks” she said. Geekygirl was thrown off guard, and let the nice lady chat to her for a few seconds. I’ve noticed that these days Geekygirl is much better at gathering herself together in the face of adversity, and the intervention of the kind flight attendant redirected her, and gave her the chance to start the process over. She applied herself to her shoes again. “Ready?” I said and she exited the plane, the cleaning crew stepping aside for us.
Our stroller awaited us, friendly passport control officers welcomed us “home”, our bag and carseat eventually exited the carousel and with one hand pushing the stroller, the other dragging the baggage cart we exited into the arrivals lounge. Grandma and Granddad, instantly recognizable to Geekygirl through our weekly Skype-ing, though rather less pixilated, were waiting, and after only one wrong turn on our way to the M1 we made it to the Buckinghamshire village were I grew up. Journeys end was met with a lovely cup of tea for me and chocolate buttons for Geekygirl. We made it, and we are so happy to be here!