I am running through the Los Angeles airport with a heavy carry-on slung across my shoulder and an even heavier Rylan in my arms. Graysen is running next to me, his green backpack bumping up and down. Our plane from Guadalajara was delayed leaving too little time for our connection. But we must make it. I have no phone to tell my friend I will not be at the airport, and the next flight gets into Anchorage at midnight. My parents do not know I am coming so I can’t show up at their door at that time. Besides, to surprise the whole family at once, we have to arrive during the family pizza party at my brother’s house.
We follow the signs to immigration, where there are some new digital kiosks where you can scan your passports, take a picture, and print out a card to hand the agent to make their job “easier.” But I am so jittery from stress and lack of sleep I can barely hold the boys up to the camera for their picture. “Look at the screen!” I tell Graysen as I try to press the button with my other hand. A helpful agent comes by and presses it for me.
We finally get our papers and go through the short line. We run to the carousel where we must pick up our checked bag. Somehow it is coming down the chute just as we arrive. I ask a man standing there to grab it for me, and we are off. Now we must go through customs where we “declare” anything illegal we might have in our bags. I am astounded that there is no line, but the cones and belts are still up. In my haste, I push the kids under the belt and follow them with my bags. The customs agent is not impressed and chews me out. But he lets me go, thankfully.
“Is there enough time for bags to make it on the 10:30 flight to Seattle?” the agent calls to the desk. “Yes, there should be, she answers back.” I pretty much throw my bag down and keep running.
We are spit out of the international arrivals in a strange back hallway of departures. We must find our way up an escalator and through security again. Oh, the frustration. I try to keep my cool in front of the kids. “Will we miss our flight, mama?” Graysen asks. “I’m not sure, sweetheart,” I answer, truthfully. The woman in front of us lets us go ahead.
We get to go through the old fashioned scanner because of the kids, but my bag gets pulled aside for extra screening. There are three bags ahead of it. A man walks slowly over and pulls the first bag out of the line. He begins checking it in front of me. “I am going to miss my flight,” I say to him, “Is there anyone else that can help you go through these bags faster?” He just looks at me and says they are all backed up. But he does seem to go a little bit faster, and before I know it, he is swabbing my bag for explosives.
Thankfully, it is negative, and I am on my way again. Rylan is in my arms and Graysen is bobbing beside me, holding my hand. I am dripping with sweat. We arrive at the gate and there are still people standing in line to get on the plane. This flight, too, has been delayed. “We made it!” I give Graysen and Rylan a high-five.
In Seattle we repeat the running. In my haste I misread a sign and get on a train to the “N” gates. “Oh, are you going to Italy too?” a nice family asks. Thankfully, the train is short and we end up back in the same terminal. My left arm holding Rylan feels like it might break off, but I am not going to miss the plane. I had hoped to get lunch at the airport but there is not even enough time for McDonalds.
As we close in on our gate, Graysen suddenly bursts out in tears, “I have to go potty!” he wails. I try to stay calm. “Of course, dear, I think there is one just up ahead. Can you make it?” The poor kid has been up since 3am, he has to be exhausted, but he has been a good sport all day. The bathrooms are not close but we make it. Then Rylan has to go. Ugh, it feels like eternity. “Can you pee faster honey? We need to catch our plane!”
We finally get out of the bathroom and roll up to the gate just as they are doing last call. We make our way through the crowded plane all the way to the back and slump down in our seats in exhaustion. The poor kids are starving, and it will be at least an hour before the flight attendant comes around with food. I ask if it would be possible to get something for the kids ahead of time. Graysen is only halfway through his roast beef slider before he falls asleep. Rylan slept earlier so he takes a little more coaxing, but soon he is also fast asleep as well. A man passing to the bathrooms sees the two sleeping kids and gives me a thumbs-up. Rest up kids, we have a pizza party to make it to!