Stage /set: Terminal K, Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Characters: Hero/Anti-hero/focus of attention: A Mum flying in tow with two toddlers - a little boy and a much younger girl. The girl will be the main character in this story.
Extras: Scores of passengers waiting to board
Me: The all-seeing, intense eyes who will also serve as the narrator of this real-life event.
- **Curtains open***
Scene 1: Time is 8:00 pm CST, it's about 20 minutes before boarding time. There's a horde of antsy passengers waiting to board the plane to get to their destinations. Said Mum (Let's call her Mum because this Mum deserves to have the 'm' in her appellation capitalized, that's how biased I am towards her) rolls her daughter in on a stroller and makes a beeline for the first row seats by the terminal, those reserved for handicapped flyers and elderly ones. I happen to be sitting in one of those seats even though I don't belong in either of these categories (I would have quickly gotten up if someone else needed it more. Anyways, back to the story, I digress).
Mum is packing heavy; pushing a toddler in a stroller with two large shopping bags hanging across each of its handles. She uses her other 'not-so-free' hand to push a medium-sized check-in luggage that was budging from its seams. Atop this luggage was another backpack of similar tumescence. Walking leisurely beside her was her other toddler son, who looked a bit older than the girl and couldn't have been more than a year older. With so much balancing acts needed to be done, Mum's eyes would cautiously glance sideways to her son, especially moments when her man-child strayed away from her peripheral vision. Son did this very often which tended to send Mum almost careening a little. Mum was outnumbered, but Mum was determined. Mum finally made her way to the seats and ensconced herself therein but not before making sure that her daughter's stroller was secured and that her son was plopped right beside her, where she could easily monitor his errant ways.
Scene 2: (8:04 pm) The Airline stewardess at the counter approaches mom to let her know that she would have to check the stroller in and be tagged. Mum decides to get up from her seat to begin the task of unbuckling her daughter (she doesn't get a capital 'D,' for reasons you'll unravel if you keep reading on. I'm also pretty sure that her name's likely to end up on Santa's naughty list) from the stroller. Mum took a cursory glance at her side only to realize that son was nowhere to be found, at least not within her field of vision. With furrowed brows indicative of concern, Mum looks around and sees son crawling in between and under seats. Mum communicated with her son in a low, hushed tone in a foreign language, with her eye contact doing most of the talk - one that didn't require interpretation as I could sense its impact on the son. He immediately, albeit begrudgingly, made his way back to his Mum's right-hand place. This mode of communication isn't new to me as it's one my Mum had used on me several times when I acted out of place in public places (all it took was the eye squint and the sideways tilt of the head to bring me back to my senses).
Scene 3: (8:07 pm) Daughter wouldn't budge, she remained planted in her stroller and resisted every attempt made by Mum to yank her from the stroller. Like I've seen many moms do here when a child is misbehaving in public places, Mum lowers herself to daughter's level and says something to her, within earshot. I guess when parents do this, they try to reason with the child as one would do with a peer. It’s an American thing, I imagine, and one I don’t quite understand and unfamiliar with, especially as a child who grew up in Nigeria where kids were once thought to be seen and not heard. It's just as well because she spoke in the same foreign language, which didn't sound threatening as it made daughter giggle and smile at Mom. This also didn't seem convincing enough for daughter to detach her deathly grips from the side bars of her Disney Frozen-themed pink strollers, replete with fading pictures of Elsa, Anna, and Count Olaf. Daughter remained unfazed; daughter didn't budge.
Scene 4: (8:10 pm) Airline stewardess waits patiently to collect the stroller, having successfully (merely, that is) added the pink Valet tags to it. Her role in this fiasco was mostly observational as she didn't do much to help Mum in liberating the stroller from the child. She stood close enough to grab the stroller if such an opportunity came for it to be freed from daughter but yet so far away that she dodged the acrobatic leg kicks and hands flails now being thrown all over by daughter. Such movements could be said to be reminiscent of Michael Flatley, the Lord himself. I think daughter may have a good career as a dancer, should she choose to pursue this.
Mum was petite, and her small wispy frame wasn't probably one of her strongest suits when it came to balancing such menacing tasks. After a while when she didn't think she was getting across to daughter, she manually yanked daughter away from the stroller. At which point daughter uses one leg to undercut the stroller at such an angle that would have required a foot surgeon or a stroller surgeon (whichever of the two got to the scene first) to cut through the stroller to extricate her leg. Daughter must have realized that she wasn't winning the war and decided to use the one thing all kids (and most adults) know only too well to use - their own voice. She started screaming like a banshee; a sound I could only describe as cacophonous. It sounded like what a walrus would sound like if it had sharp labor pangs or the sound you could ascribe to someone undergoing an exorcism. At this point, the extras in our set (aka antsy passengers) all focused their attention on Mum, some waiting with bated breath as to what her next steps would be in containing the 'issue (no pun intended)' at hand. Others had that judging look reserved for parents with misbehaving kids, you know those looks that ranged from blaming them for not disciplining theirs scions enough to quizzing looks that seemed to ask if the parents were just going to let such defiant acts slide. Another look I could speculate from the crowd was the grateful smirk, laden with schadenfreude that expressed relief for not being a parent to such kids or just being thankful for tying up your gonads and skimping on the decision to have children. The stage was set, and Mum seemed to be waning in strength and will. Daughter still maintained her wailings at a pitch and decibel I'm sure could be heard by others at the next three terminals down.
Scene 5: (8:14 pm) Mum finally succeeded in releasing stroller from the child. Airline hostess rapidly grabs the stroller and quickly leaves the scene, as one would do when surreptitiously trying to leave a crime scene, undetected. It had taken another full five minutes of assault to our ears and sensibilities before daughter decided to give up. It then dawned on me that in all of this Mum never raised her voice harshly at Daughter nor did she attempt to utilize spankings. If Mum was ashamed of what went down, Mum never showed it. Having been lowered onto the floor for minutes, Mum rises slowly but gracefully cradling daughter in arms and wiping non-existent tears from daughter's eyes. Mum seats down but not before giving son those laser stares as he was now out of his seat and licking the floor (or something close to that).
Moral of the Story:
- Here's to mums all around the world, doing what they need to do to keep everything and everyone around them sane without losing their marbles.
- Here's to mums who despite having to withstand the stares of scores of onlookers keep things moving with so much grace.
- Here's to mothers, who may be small, but are fierce, dauntless, and relentless against the whims and caprices of rambunctious, energized toddlers.
- Here's to all mothers; to the ones long gone, the ones here, and the ones yet to be born...
Happy Mother's day.
TL;DR: Mums rock!
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Meanwhile, feast your eyes with this aerial view of Chicago that was taken by me from my window seat as my plane was about landing.