Ah such a peaceful sight. You would not think her mother had just spent approximately 2 and a half minutes crying in the airplane toilets due to scenes that had occurred moments prior to this.
It all began with the stairs. The unanticipated stairs that made an appearance right by the gate, just as I was thinking how near the gate was and how straightforward it had all been up until this point.
See it was not just Maia and I and a couple of bags. I had in tow: her suitcase, my suitcase, her blanket (which of course four year olds are unable to carry without dragging..)her toys, her coat, a Boots bag of recently purchased 100ml+ liquids, a bag of carbohydrates from Pret to help Mummy make it through the day (didn’t work), my scarf, jumper and big puffy coat which all had to be removed from my body due to excess sweating…and now her folded up pushchair too. Part of the joy of a pushchair is that you can pile bags and coats and whatever you fancy on the handles. But now, my precious cart had to be folded up and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I did not have a sufficient number of arms to support the load. This would take two trips up and down the stairs. So be it. Somehow, and without letting her out my sight -“MUMMY IS RIGHT HERE, JUST GRABBING THE REST OF OUR STUFF BABY!!!!”- we made it to the queue.
I think signs of despair were beginning to show as a kind lady in front of me simply took the folded-up pushchair and began carrying it for me without asking. “I have two little ones, I know what it’s like…” Me, seconds from tears: “Oh thank you.. THANK YOU”. I thought the panic was over. But the queue was moving way too fast and I kept dropping things, I still did not have enough arms. It was a truly awful scene. Somewhere between pathetic and pitiful. Jumpers being dragged across the floor, boarding passes flying through the air onto the ground (yanked them out of my bag a little too swiftly as we moved along), and Maia chatting happily to the lady in front as I try and recall HOW I had so many fucking things to carry.
By the time we reached the front -most of our garments had been unintentionally dragged across the floor- I slammed our passports onto the desk without even looking up (so rude, I didn’t even make eye contact with the woman) and began trying to load all our crap ONTO MY BODY -despite the sweat. Apparently I was being too slow. “Er, Your passports are here..” “YES I KNOW!”
Thank you to the numerous people who offered to help during my meltdown. There were probably about five in total. I must have appeared slightly unhinged as I kicked my pushchair along the ground at one point in frustration. I really thought I’d manage. My immediate reaction was “Oh no no thank you I’m fine!”…I was not fine. Quite the contrary. But that seemed simpler than trying to keep track of one bag here and one bag there. In hindsight I should have said yes to each and every one of those kind strangers. “Yes please, thank you”. – Not hard.
I did hand one helpful man my suitcase to pull along for a few moments. That was wonderful. BUT THEN THERE WERE MORE STAIRS. To get on the effing plane. And the helpful man had already disappeared.
I strongly dislike not being able to hold Maia’s hand up steep flights of stairs –onto giant airplanes...so if you were nearby you will have heard: “HOLD THE HANDLE, GO SLOWLY, HOLD IT, BUT COVER YOUR HAND WITH YOUR SLEEVE IT IS DIRTY, HOLD ON, YES KEEP GOING, NEARLY THERE, WELL DONE DARLING!!” – And possibly noticed a formation of bags and pile of clothes somehow making its way up the stairs. Under that was a woman.
After getting Maia settled in her seat I dashed off to the toilet to weep in private for a couple of minutes. With 2 hours sleep, and a cold sweat under my jumper, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I was also apparently AUDIBLY a little overwhelmed as when I came out of the toilet the stewardess looked at me and said “Are you okay?”. Ah shit. How loud was I crying? And did I talk to myself whilst I was in there?! Definitely.
“Yes. I am very well thank you”. And flounced back down the aisle to my seat, relieved and a little mortified.
Things were all much smoother from then on. Post-landing we’d both cooled down significantly and were able to wear all our clothes. The pushchair was in airplane hold and the bags became manageable, as did my emotions.
So…shout out to all the mothers (and fathers, let’s not forget the fathers) who have ever travelled alone with a child -or children…They probably make it look easy. They probably pack light and wear all their clothes because they can, because they’re not sweating-mid-breakdown like I was. Maybe they even have free hands. But hey, we made it to Poland, safe and sound with all our possessions intact. And I have learnt a valuable lesson: (No, it is not to pack lighter, every single one of those things I needed…It is November; layers!!) SAY YES WHEN OFFERED HELP THE FIRST TIME, JUST SAY YES.