Here is the story of my recent unexpectedly lengthy and bodily-fluid-soaked sojourn from St. Louis, MO, to see my parents in my hometown of Eugene, OR, with visual aids.
(Henry and Emily are my names for the couple in the row in front of us on our very ill-fated second flight, from Denver to Eugene. I AM GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF. They absolutely reeked of weed. I’m sure their real names were Amarynth and BlissDemon, but I can’t be too annoyed with them, because they spent four hours sandwiched between toddler rows. AHEAD OF MYSELF. THIS IS NON-LINEAR NARRATIVE OREGON TRAIL, ALL RIGHT, BITCHES? GET OFF MY BACK.)
I choose December, motherfuckers, because that is by far the best month to climb into a sealed disease vector, careen up to 35,000 feet, parch my membranes, and then wait to see if the weather the airline 100% knew was happening when the plane took off in one place was still happening in the other place. (I THINK IN A TEMPORAL CIRCLE NOW, JUST LIKE IN ARRIVAL. ALSO, SPOILER ALERT ABOUT ARRIVAL.)
As all Prepared Moms do, I’ll be bringing a change of clothes for Fluffy. But me? I checked all my clothes, because why would I need anything other than what I’m wearing on a half-day trip? I’m an adult. I know how to eat without spilling all over myself. This is going to go great.
For only the second time in her life, we get Fluffy out of bed early in the morning to go somewhere. (Yes, only the second time in her life. We may or may not arrange our entire existences around not having to disrupt our daughter’s sleep. If you knew her, you’d know why.) Amazingly, she wakes herself up in a relatively good mood at exactly 7 a.m., precisely the moment I summon a very nice Uber driver named Daryl. She seems a bit dazed, but we assume that this is because of the upheaval, and not because she’s woken everyone briefly at 4:45 to vomit breastmilk theatrically all over the bed.
“Hmm,” I’d said when she did this. “She’s throwing up. She must have been hitting the boob too hard in her sleep.”
“Probably,” said King Dork. “I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that you yourself were flat on your back shivering and sobbing with a stomach bug you proclaimed ‘the worst you’d ever felt’ not 24 hours ago.” He didn’t actually say that last part out loud, because we are dumbshits.
Fluffy is now in oddly mellow spirits on the way to “DA AIER-PORT” to get on “DA BIG PLANE” and “FLY HIGH IN DA SKY.” ODDLY. MELLOW. “She must really be dazed to be doing something so out of the ordinary, so early in the morning.” Yeah, dazed, that’s the ticket.
On the first flight to Denver, Fluffy sits in my lap like a sweet little lump, and amuses herself with coloring, stickers and the occasional video. She does not, however, want to eat any of the snacks I have brought, all of which are among her favorite snacks, especially Cliff Z Bars.
All signs point to a punctual, relatively uneventful day until we begin our descent into Denver, at which point she does this great new thing she’s into, where she stops nursing only to demand to nurse. Specifically, to NURSE ON THE COUCH, her new all-purpose phrase for “I need to be comforted now.”
“NURSE ON THE COUCH!” Fluffy cries, four inches from an outstretched boob (that I am halfheartedly trying to conceal from the rest of the airplane). “NURSE ON THE COUCH!” Her cries to nurse get more intense, but her actual intent to nurse gets less so. This is because what she really means is HOLD ON TO YOUR NUTS, BECAUSE I’M GONNA YOOK, which she does, all over her shirt, my shirt, my scarf, and Slippely the Cat.
“I think,” I say, “she’s sick.”
King Dork and I react to this with admirable calm. I mop up what I can, and quickly peel off both her layers and mine, until she’s bare-chested and all I’m wearing is my nursing camisole. King Dork has quickly procured a plastic bag from the flight attendants, and we dump everything — even poor Slippely — as I don a worn-ass orange pocket tee he nicely pulls out of his backpack, that looks nice with King Dork’s ruddy complexion and makes me look like “a farmer’s wife.” A farmer’s wife no longer covered in hurl, so I’ll take it. Silver lining: It was all just breastmilk, so it reminds me of having a newborn again, albeit in much larger quantities. Also, the plane lands, we get out, and then spend an uneventful two-hour layover taking turns riding the moving walkway round and round and round and round. So I may have a little residual yom on me, who cares? We’ll be in a nice warm bath at my parents’ house in a matter of hours!!!
On the second flight, we attempt not to get paranoid from the monumental weed reek of Emily and Henry in front of us — and poor beleaguered Emily and Henry get their drinks spilled on them thanks to Rowdy Roddy Piper in the row in front of them, who looks to be about two and a half and, as folk are wont to do, enjoys treating his airline seat like a trampoline. His parents are mortified and offer Emily and Henry drinks, and they smile and refuse and thank Cannibia the Urrth Goddess of Chill that he’s not their responsibility, and meanwhile Fluffy has been steadily kicking Emily’s seat for almost three hours and she hasn’t even batted an eye toward us.
Fluffy manages to put down a dried fruit bar and about half of a Clif Z Iced Oatmeal Cookie Bar (FORESHADOWING).
We begin our descent, and about ten minutes in, the pilot comes on and, I shit you not, goes, “Oh, by the way, Eugene has freezing rain, and we might not be able to land there.”
“We’re going to try to land there…”
“…but we might not be able to.”
“If we can’t land there, we’ll land in Portland, where there’s only snow (FORESHADOWING), and then figure out our next move then.”
We dip lower and lower into the clouds. The plane bumps. Lower and lower we go. Fluffy’s ears begin to pop and I manage to get her to stop screaming by shoving a boob in her face. The landing gear pops out. I let out half a sigh in relief. The plane turns. And turns. And turns. Fluffy burns with fever and lolls about unhappily.
And then: ZOOM. The pilot guns, up up up goes the nose, off we go into the wild misty-white yonder, and I say, loud enough for most of the cabin to hear: MOTHERFUCK.
Twenty minutes later, down we go again into Portland’s once-in-three-years snowstorm, the plane lurching about enough to alarm the normally-stoic King Dork, whose primary concern is that we may all die, until it is that we are all quite suddenly covered in Clif Iced Oatmeal Cookie Z Bars in a state of digestion we’d rather not have seen. The kid only ate like two bites, and yet what comes out of her easily soils three of King Dork’s t-shirts, which he conveniently packs in his carry-on backpack, presumably to wear at some juncture but also to mop up yomit. Off goes Fluffy’s second change of clothes and on comes her last “bonus” sweater, as she cries in distress and brave Emily in the row in front of us finally, finally allows herself to utter a sigh of despair. You and me both, Emily, but at least you’re not currently wallowing in a nursing camisole covered in secondhand Cliff Z Bar that you can’t take off because then you’d literally be topless. The situation has downgraded. We’re about five minutes away from total collapse.
In Portland, they instruct us to get off the plane but then wait at the gate, because we could literally be spirited back on and then down to Eugene at ANY SECOND. That is, in fact, the line of complete bullshit they’re just that moment feeding my dad down at the Eugene Airport, where he has driven to pick us up after being told our plane was on time, despite Eugene’s current weather conditions of:
Most travelers, I think, leave their homes with the psychic capacity of like three or four Things to happen. If you count both barfs as Things, and then the non-landing as a Thing, we are now at Maximum Things Before I Lose It. And yet, unbeknownst to me, but knownst to you now, because I am bad at linear narrative, there are so many more Things to go.
But first, we make some decisions. I am officially out of garments to vomit on, so I vote that we pull the bags from the plane and decamp to Portland for the night. King Dork agrees. Fluffy is too busy dragging us to the moving walkway with the final measure of her energy.
Meanwhile, the “light” snow in Portland has turned to TOTAL WEATHER APOCALYPSE, and as such every airport hotel is booked. I use my phone’s last two percent of power to put out a Hail Mary Facebook “distress call,” letting a bunch of people I haven’t seen since high school know that me, my husband and our toddler are stranded as fuck in Portland and we aren’t NOT covered in vomit. Miraculously, it works. My friend Sara, with whom I last had a full conversation in AP Government class, offers us her cozy, warm spare bedroom. All we have to do now is get to her house, which is about four miles away from the airport in Northeast Portland.
Oh, except. Oregon, being both a leader in environmental self-righteousness (all right, CONSCIOUSNESS) and a place where it snows about as often as a Supermoon, has absolutely jack fucking squat in the way of snow preparedness. So, as we are in our wildly-out-of-its-depth minivan taxi — which the dispatcher has asked a good-natured vacationing retired couple from Montana, Fred and Beverly*, to share with us, and which they have agreed to do despite clearly not wishing to do so — watching cars spin out to our right and left, watching other cars get abandoned by their motorists (meanwhile, across the city, unbeknownst to us, school buses full of kids are stuck and will continue to be stuck UNTIL MIDNIGHT), you might think that we’re in a polar vortex.
There is one inch of snow.
This is enough, however, to strand our taxi at a busy intersection, much to the ire of a passing pedestrian who, instead of offering to help a two old people and a young family with a toddler in obvious distress, just yells: “BUY SOME FUCKING CHAINS!” This guy, by the way, happens to be about 40 and white, well-dressed for the weather, able-bodied and strapping. Meanwhile, two Black teens in hoodies, skinny and gloveless, VOLUNTEER to push the van out of harm’s way, and do so, risking frostbite and life and limb as other cars careen around them, obliterating every dumb, racist stereotype about “inner city” youth our president-elect loves to bandy about. But I digress. During this part of the journey, I have officially hit my Wall of Excess Things Limit, and lose my shit. I text my parents that we’re going to die. I text my atheist friend Sara to pray for us. I, also purportedly an atheist, clasp my hands, bow my head, and repeat PLEASE HELP US in a sobbing stage-whisper. I NEVER bother G-d, G-d dammit. It’s the least Hashem can do to get my poor sick toddler into safe shelter. (I “translated” five words of Hebrew for work this week, so I’m feeling extra Jewish.) Eventually we move again. It takes us an hour to go four miles. Fluffy has relatively peacefully watched her alphabet videos on my barely-recharged phone the entire time.
I show up on Sara’s doorstep with a confused, underdressed toddler, head dotted with snowflakes. She and her husband and impossibly cherubic 8-month-old welcome us in, feed us, and usher us down into their toasty basement apartment. An overwhelmed, feverish Fluffy collapses immediately.
Sara lets us use her washing machine.
The next morning, we go to play in the snow and survey the damage, this apocalyptic snowmageddon that brought Portland to its knees.
The weather is not predicted to let up for several days, so to make it the final 100 miles on our Oregon Trail, we go by train. I spring the extra 30 bucks for business class, which offers us the brief use of a fancy waiting lounge, large seats, a near-empty car, and a slightly larger restroom in which to change a distressed Fluffy’s equally distressed diaper. Fluffy has been reading and watching videos about trains for months, so she spends the trip saying “IT’S MAKING A SOUND!” every time the train whistles. When the conductor comes to take our tickets, she looks up at him and goes “ALL ABOARD!”
We arrive in Eugene at 9:15 p.m. on Thursday. (Our original flight was supposed to land at 2:52 p.m. on Wednesday. I do not know what became of it.) My pants have been washed of vomit, but now, thanks to Fluffy’s final en-route bout of digestive malaise, I am covered in shit.
Amtrak has lost our car seat.
At home, 20,000 people are without power in Eugene, and thousands more have had trees, unaccustomed to the weight of Princess Elsa’s ice-wrath, fall onto their houses and cars. My parents have power, and only a small amount of tree damage, none of it to the house.
I will never eat a Cliff Z Bar again.
The ice, by the way, is beautiful.
*BONUS Fred & Beverly Story: In the confusion of exiting the taxi, they forgot one of their suitcases, and the driver assumed it was ours, and we didn’t notice it ourselves until Sara’s husband John offered to bring it downstairs for us. Neither we nor, presumably, Fred or Beverly, knew the name of a) each other (beyond first names), b) the actual addresses where we went, c) anyone’s phone number. But because I watch a lot of detective shows, I immediately instructed King Dork to search through the suitcase for identifying details, and without even having to open the main compartment, we found an itinerary, which included an airline name and a confirmation number. The airline was able to patch us through to Fred himself, and he came over two hours later and got his bag back.