It’s funny how different things go the second time around. When we first flew with Kavya, who was all of three-months-old at the time, I fretted for days. Planes are death boxes. They’re filled with germs. People get annoyed with babies on planes. People are annoying on planes. The trip was 12 hours. I’d have to hold her the whole time. Except, of course, when Navdeep was holding her. How would I nurse? Would we make our connection? Blah, blah, blah. The list was endless.
This time around, with Shaiyar, I should have fretted even more. After all, Navdeep and Kavya were already some 3000 miles away in California, and I’d be trapped in the death box with annoying, annoyed people by myself with a four-month-old kid who isn’t a great sleeper. And okay, I’ll admit it, I had a little bit of angst. But I also had my metaphoric boxing gloves donned, ready to take out anyone who tried to mess with me and my kid.
Luckily, I didn’t have to. I’m not saying it was an easy trip — you try flying cross country with a drooling, grabby-handed 15-pound sack in your lap. But it could have been way worse. He didn’t get sick. He didn’t throw up. He didn’t cry the whole time. He didn’t sleep the whole time, either, but he did nap occasionally, or sit in the handy-dandy little plane sling I’d procured for the occasion. And he babbled at the folks sitting next to us.
On the aisle was a little girl, maybe six or seven, who was happy to see Shaiyar and made the exact same kind of faces at him that Kavya would, cross-eyed smirks, wide-eyed grins, lots of giggles. He was pleased to see her, and babbled at her from across the way. Next to me, of course, was her teenaged brother, probably 14. I have to say, I wasn’t thrilled to see him. I’m all for all mamas breastfeeding wherever and whenever they need to. But I can also be awfully bashful. Still, it was a big trip, a new environment for Shaiyar, and he needed the comfort just as much as he needed the milk. So I donned my cover and my gorgeous blue flowery scarf, and Shaiyar snuggled in. He and I chatted about publishing and Kavya’s antics and how his Papa’s workshop with Junot Diaz must have gone. We talked about our beach trip to Santa Cruz, and how he had cute little blue swim trunks he’d wear. We sang the Tigger song, much to the 14-year-old’s delight. No seriously! And Shaiyar slept intermittently, half an hour here and there. Which essentially meant: I did not sleep at all. It hurt. I think I am still recovering.
I grabbed a slice of pizza in Salt Lake City, then we boarded our second flight, on a small plane that was super-loud. This time, it was a two-seater row — and a man with a big fat anesthesiology book plopped down next to me. He took one look at happy, burbling Shaiyar and said the dreaded words: “I was hoping I wouldn’t have a baby on this flight.” I was about to put up my fists when he clarified: “It’s karma. I have a baby at home, so I was due, I guess.” Then he put on his headphones, focused on his book, and proceeded to ignore us the rest of the flight!
Given the time, 8ish p.m. PST, so like 11 EST, I thought Shaiyar would conk. But nope. He yapped and flailed at the two ladies (and toddler) in the seats behind us, he grabbed my face, he stared out the window at the sunset, he babbled and babbled and babbled and babbled.
Just as he finally fell asleep, we landed in Fresno. I called Navdeep to let him know we were there, safe and sound, and headed to baggage claim. Shaiyar awoke then, and he was thrilled to be off the death box. He grinned his gummy smile, imagining he’d had a full night’s sleep and it was a wondrous morning, as I waited for the fat, hot pink suitcase to roll around. And then there was Dadima, with plenty of cuddles to share.
In the car, my sweet, sweet Kavya sat, fast asleep, with presents for Shaiyar and Mama in her lap. She’d wrapped them up with much delight, so happy that we were all finally together, ready to start our California adventure as a family of four. But that, it seemed, would have to wait till morning.
Here are some fun photos from our trip!