I thought I would record this little snippet of our experience today, because, I know, in twenty years, it will be funny. Today, it was simply a test of my mental fortitude and physical stamina.
The day started off with Zofia and I heading down to Dulles airport, around 11am, to pick up Flo, who was coming in on a 2pm flight from visiting her friend, Megan, in Montana. Joe opted to stay home, and skip the airport adventure, but Zofia had to come along. I was sure, unlike Flo’s departure, where we spent twelve hours in the airport after a missed flight, that her return would be less time-consuming, and Zofia would enjoy the drive. This was true. We stopped to get blueberries on the way at a farm stand, and talked about all sorts of interesting things on the way down. But, her previous fascination with the airport was promptly tempered by waiting in lines and a newfound fear of alternative modes of ground transportation.
Upon arriving at the airport about a half hour before Flo’s flight was due to land, we took our time meandering on in, and got to the baggage claim just as her flight landed. Great timing, I thought! And, wow, Flo’s bag was the first one off the plane, so I grabbed it, and we waited for her chaperon (a service which we paid extra for) to escort her out.
Not long after grabbing her bag, Flo called me on my cell, and told me I needed to come pick her up. Apparently, it was necessary for me to go through security to the gate to meet her and sign her out. So, I had to go upstairs to the United ticket counter to request a gate pass. We had to wait in line behind a military family, moving to Germany, that was checking in their family dog, and a large family, confused about their passports and needing to check an abundance of luggage. This took awhile, and Zofia was very interested in the several pets that were accompanying travelers. She repetitively prompted me to ask if she could pet the dogs while we were waiting in line.
Finally, gate pass in hand, we headed for security. The line wasn’t quite as long as it had been when we dropped Flo off, so that was a relief. We took a spot in line and began our wait. This is when I uttered the words that were the catalyst for the events to come. The people behind us were talking about the “train” that goes to the terminal. I then made the mistake of telling Zofia we were waiting in the line to go on the train (tram/bus thing) to the gate to meet Sissy. I thought she’d be excited. Wrong! She instantly protested and ran away from me!
Sympathetic onlookers in the line offered to hold my place while I went to retrieve Zofia. This was a test of my agility, as I made my way towards her, through the partitioned walkways, set up to keep travelers in line. I finally got a hold of her, only after two security agents cornered her on each side. Such drama!
Now, tugging Zofia along by her wrist, with her yelling and resisting, I returned to my place in line. We spent the next ten minutes waiting to get our pass checked, all the while with Zofia screaming and me trying everything to divert her attention. I felt sorry for the people around us having to endure it, but they probably felt the same about me.
When we finally arrived at the front of the line, and gave the employee our pass, Zofia was now in the middle of a full-blown meltdown. The lady was obviously irritated with us, and asked why Zofia’s name wasn’t on the pass. I told her because she’s five and she’s not travelling. I was just there to pick up my older daughter. She spent some time assessing me skeptically, as if I may be abducting this screaming child. And, who could blame her. Zofia was yelling, “No. I don’t want to go with you. I want to go home!” But, eventually, after consulting a few other employees, I was ushered through to security.
At this point, we got in another line, waiting to be cleared through security. Zofia was livid and inconsolable. While trying to hold her hand to keep her from darting away from me again, through the obstacle course of people and carry-on baggage, she was kicking and screaming and pinched and scratched my hand so hard she drew blood. But, I dutifully maintained my composure, and held fast to her arm.
We arrived at the security check, and had to remove our shoes to put through the x-ray machine. To say the least, now bruised and bleeding, and testing my physical endurance wrestling with a five year old for over a half an hour, removing her shoes was almost my breaking point. But, I persevered, and we made it through the metal detector without sounding any alarms. Well, other than the alarming cry of Zofia, still yelling, “I don’t want to go!”
Now through security, carrying Zofia, I continued on to the tram. This was the funny part. Well, it is in retrospect. The “train,” unlike the actual subway-like train we had taken (while Zofia was sleeping in her stroller) when we dropped Flo off at the airport, this was simply a bus that shuttled passengers to their gates.
As soon as she stepped on the the bus, Zofia looked around, and instantly relaxed her grip on my shirt, which she had practically succeeded in tearing off. She looked around, as if thinking, “Oh, this is just a bus!” We sat down, and she finally gave up resisting, and resumed her normal, generally pleasant, demeanor. I thoroughly enjoyed the four minute reprieve of our bus ride, while nursing my wound, and taking a few deep breaths, bracing myself for any aftershocks.
But, thankfully, the journey from here on out, aside from a little whining and complaining about having to walk too much, was uneventful. We successfully verified, that I was, indeed, authorized to pick up Flo, and we happily retrieved her and slowly headed home, through rush hour traffic.
Now, almost into tomorrow, relaxing before bedtime, I can reflect upon the day with humor and love for the little person that caused such a big commotion. Even in the midst of the crazy episode, I understood Zofia’s fear and her need, but unfortunately, could not accommodate her completely by going home without retrieving my other, equally loved, daughter. So, I had to do my best to accomplish the task at hand, without being detained by security, or falling to the floor and crying myself!
As they say, all is well that ends well. And, we now have a funny story to tell Zofia someday, maybe when she’s a young mom, engaging in the unscripted drama of parenthood herself. Incidentally, today would have been my father, Zofia’s grandfather’s, 69th birthday, and I swear, as I exited the airport, I felt him grin and congratulate Zofia for her successful execution of an endurance test!