If you were wondering where I've been, I have just returned from an almost-monthlong trip to Spain (with one very exciting day in Morocco). We have friends with a home on the southern coast of Spain, and they invited us to come for a week. In his typical fashion, my husband decided to turn our little week into a month of exploring a country neither of us had ever seen - and to bring the kids along and show them why they should try harder in Spanish class.
While we were there, we celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary.
My next few blog posts are going to focus on the trip, unless some other subject keeps me awake at night and demands to be addressed in this space. Don't worry - this won't be a typical boring, rambling slide show of someone else's vacation. Try to stay with me. It actually gets sort of interesting around Granada.
But I get ahead of myself. The trip started early on the morning of July 25, as we flew from LaGuardia, the smallest of the New York City airports, to Atlanta (where we had an absolutely fabulous long lunch with my old friend Helena), and then on to Madrid.
Now, before I start waxing rhapsodic about the Spanish capital, I need to tell you a secret (which is sort of a ridiculous thing to say, since this is a public blog, but whatever). I am absolutely terrified of flying.
I was not always afraid of flying. In fact, as a kid, I thought it was glamorous and exciting. I could not wait to get onto a plane and fly off into the wild blue yonder. But something changed, probably around the time I was in college, and made me nervous. Maybe it was the rise of terrorism, real or in my imagination. Maybe it was the watching of one too many plane-crash stories on CNN. Maybe it was the Lockerbie disaster. Or maybe it was nothing in particular; as I grew up, I became more keenly aware of my own mortality, and the thought of hurtling through the air in a tin can at several hundred miles an hour gave rise to a sickening fear within me.
I try to hide my fear, especially from my children. After all, it is mostly irrational, and a little bit selfish. How many people in the world have the opportunity to go on a month-long trip to Spain? It seems a little whiny to complain about mundane details like the plane trip. And I know that it's safer to get on an airplane than to ride in a car; I've read everything I can to convince myself of the likelihood of arriving at my destination in one piece. Still, every little bit of turbulence, every unfamiliar noise, every sinister-looking stranger makes me nervous.
When he's close enough to reach me, my husband always makes a point of touching my arm lightly during takeoff and landing, or when the ride gets noticeably bumpy. It's just a reminder, really, that he's there, and it temporarily silences the voices in my head that are screaming oh no, I never got around to updating my will and this is going to be really painful and please at least let the kids survive without catastrophic injuries.
Of course, so far, nothing disastrous has ever happened. That is, if you don't count the time I was six months pregnant, en route to Chicago, and stranded on the tarmac for three hours while the flight attendants refused to give me so much as a packet of peanuts ("It's against company policy to serve food while we're on the ground," they told me, as I retched into one of the paper bags that company policy apparently did allow them to distribute). Or the time we went to Colorado but our luggage went to Minnesota. Or - this is one of my favorites - the time my year-old daughter screamed nonstop all the way from Newark, New Jersey to Portland, Oregon. We actually happened to be in first class on that flight, and the other elite passengers banded together in an unsuccessful attempt to get me and my unhappy baby kicked back into coach. As though having a crying baby constitutes some sort of breach of airline contract.
In a way, I am grateful for these little distractions, because they keep my mind off my ever-present fear of crashing and burning, or of blowing up in midair. Now that my kids are older, we watch movies together, play video games, read, and sleep, and that all passes the time pretty quickly.
On our flight to Madrid in July, we were seated in the rear bulkhead seats. At first, I was pretty excited, because we had lots of legroom, and the plane was only half full. I anticipated a full night's sleep. Then I realized our seats didn't recline. My husband and my girls quickly found vacant rows in which to stretch out, but my son and I stayed in the rear bulkhead, tangled around each other, tugging at a shared blanket, and we arrived in Madrid nice and groggy the next morning.
But that was okay. What awaited us was a truly spectacular trip.
Next post: Madrid