Random Acts of Animal Crackers

Last Monday, the entire One Family -- 9.5 living entities of human and tiny canine variety, plus Princess H's trusty steed, Trunki -- piled into seats 2A, B and C on Frontier's afternoon flight from DCA to DEN.

A couple days before, Mr. One called Cleveland to let me know that some deadlines at work had been bumped around and his never-ending project in Denver would be demanding 5-7 Mile High days a week, rather than the 3-4 that had already been taxing my emotional reserves to Scandinavian proportions. It was a cruel reminder that life continues, even though our little TD world has been suspended in time and space and lake-effect snow since Christmas. The thought of playing a pregnant, frazzled, sick-with-worry-for-her-sister, single parent for the next 4-6 weeks was just more than I could bear. So the kids and dogs and Trunki and I decided to tag along with the only sane member of the family as he headed back West. It was necessary.

My post-Ohio/pre-Denver, 43-hour D.C. "layover" was a whirlwind: unpacking, laundry, renovation punch lists, Sunday School lesson for rambunctious 5-year-olds, looking for my ridiculously comfortable Crazy Mom Shoes, eating the giant box of fresh blueberries sitting in the fridge, packing again, cancelling D.C. doctor appointments, making Denver doctor appointments, worrying about Two, worrying that I'd forgotten to pack something, remembering that pretty much anything in the world is available for purchase somewhere in the Denver Metro Area (most of it at Target). By the time I collapsed into that cramped middle seat, I was pretty well spent.

Since we were flying with Mr. One, (who's been commuting cross-country every week for about 6 months now and is hence a practical celebrity on his airline of choice), our motley crew enjoyed what passes on no-frills Frontier as "fancy" seats. And, while grateful for the teeny bit of extra legroom, I doubted whether it was worth the collective stinkeye directed our way by the seasoned road warriors surrounding us at the front of the plane. I couldn't, of course, blame them. But I can speak from experience -- the only thing worse than being stuck on a flight with a couple of random, ill-behaved toddlers is when those ill-behaved toddlers belong to you. When they do, you're not only miserable that they're seat-kicking, apple juice-spilling, banshee-howling little monsters, you're wracked with guilt for inflicting their terrors on everyone else, too. So when in-flight entertainment ceased to mesmerize, and the little dearies started acting restless, and the suit-clad business dudes around us started to shoot dirty looks while pulling out their Bose noise-cancelling headphones, I longed for the familiar comfort of those rotten seats in the very last row that don't recline and where you don't feel bad for being a little loud and a lot messy because your closest neighbor is the lavatory, and it's used to this kind of crap.

Just as Princess H descended into a full-scale meltdown and Tiny launched yet another volley of frenzied seat-kicking, the slightly crusty flight attendant glided down the aisle and stopped at our row. She had been full of admonitions about where and how we corralled our children and their accouterments ever since we boarded, and I really wished she would just go away. Until she handed me a bag of animal crackers. "These are a gift from 1C," she said, before turning on her heels. Now, I had already tried to appease the kids with a wide assortment of snacks pulled from Trunki's bowels to no avail, but this available-for-purchase treat instantly caught their attention. It was delicious and entertaining. They were silent. I was overwhelmed. When Hubby and I thanked the poor guy in front of us, he was genuinely warm and kind. And he tried to give me the rest of his little bottle of chardonnay. (Because I obviously needed it.)

The bag was emptied soon enough. But the magic lasted. I was sincerely moved by the simple act of thoughtful generosity. It lifted my weary spirits and reminded me how important it is to be kind and  give others the benefit of the doubt. Or animal crackers. Or a hug. Most of the time, these days, I could use all of the above. And I've been amazed and deeply humbled and grateful beyond words at how generously my friends, random strangers, and the universe has been in meeting needs I didn't know I had with grace I never thought to imagine.

Three puppies joined our little exodus. They're driving me crazy. Want one?