I could write about all the wonderful parts of our trip – like how good the kids were, how great it was to see my family in Israel, the joy of discovering a charming cafe in Galway – but who wants to read about that? Really, it’s so much more entertaining to hear about the stuff that went wrong, wouldn’t you say?
Well, things started to fall apart on our way home. Our flight from Israel to New York was scheduled to leave at 12:40 am on Friday. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, though, since we had never fully adjusted to the time change and the kids had been going to bed around midnight anyways. So we left Jerusalem around 9:30 pm for the drive to the airport. All was proceeding according to plan when, as we climbed one of the last hills out of the city, my father’s car began to lose power. Siig and I exchanged nervous looks. Maybe the car couldn’t handle the hill, we said to ourselves without very much confidence. I uttered a silent prayer: “Please don’t let us be stranded on the side of the road in this land of crazy drivers with the kids in the car. Please, please, please.”
As I would soon find out, proximity to the Holy Land has nothing to do with your prayers being answered.
My dad’s car proceeded to go, albite much slower, but at least we were chugging along. Then, all of a sudden, the Volvo just up and died. Right there on Highway 1, probably the busiest freeway in Israel. My dad slowly coasted to the shoulder, and there we sat. In the dark. In the pouring rain. Do you know how often I have seen it rain in the 30-some years I have been going to Israel? Zero. It’s the desert, for christ’s sake. But this night we had the good fortune of a torrential downpour. Our luck.
And, of course, my father had forgotten his cell phone. Siig tried to see if his phone would work, but no luck. Finally, my dad had no choice but to get out of the car, stand on the side of the road in the rain, and try to flag down a car. This in itself is a life-or-death act since Israeli drivers are honestly some of the most frightening I have ever seen, my father included. To illustrate my point, once we got cut off by a car full of nuns. Even the devout drive like maniacs there. Beware of Benedictine monks behind the wheel.
Through out all of this, I have to say, I remained surprisingly calm. We still had plenty of time to get to the airport. We were in no rush to get back to the states. As long as my children didn’t go walking along the side of the freeway, we would be OK. But I really didn’t want to sleep there. Finally, after about 15 minutes, a taxi pulled up in front of us. Hallelujah! God did hear my prayers after all, he must have just been busy helping some nuns get ahead in traffic to deal with us right away. Siig and I frantically grabbed our suitcases, stuffed them in the cab, grabbed the kids, and had to say good-bye to my dad there on the side of Highway 1. But I knew he would be OK since the driver let him use his cell phone to call his brother and a tow truck. Off we went.
We were actually only 15 minutes away from the airport. For this the Al the driver, who had lived in Las Vegas for 15 years, asked for $45. I guess that was his “emergency rescue” fee. Outrageous, but we paid it. We got through security and check-in fairly smoothly. But right before we boarded the plane, Siig had the bright idea of buying Kaiden a small carton of chocolate milk. Note for next year: do not buy beverages for children before a red-eye flight. Kaiden downed the drink, and even though we asked him a thousand times if he had to go the bathroom, it wasn’t until we were taxing for take-off that he announces, once again,”I have to pee. Really bad.”
Tough beans, we told him. Now you have to hold it and suffer. But as soon as we were at cruising altitude and the seat belt sign beeped off, Kaiden was out like a light, snoring away. Oh well, we said. Hopefully he will hold it in his sleep. Wrong. A few hours later Siig checked him and he was soaking wet. Fortunately, I had brought their PJs and one change of clothes. Siig changed him into his PJs while he slept and then mopped up the seat with one of those flimsy airplane pillow cases. A few hours later, Siig tapped me on the shoulder as I tried to sleep. “He did it again.” Shit. Off went the PJs, on went the extra clothes, out came the pillow case sponge. Siig laid out the wet clothes in the over head bin like our own personal laundry rack. The irony of all this is that we were in the very last row right next to the bathrooms. I don’t think Kaiden ever made it to the bathroom the whole 13 hours. He obviously preferred the comfort of his own seat.
I swear, I think I’m going to change the name of this blog to “The Bathroom Chronicles.”
Did I mention that Kaya wet her pants on the drive to the airport?
Anyways, we land in New York at 6 am, the kids well rested since they slept for 12 hours but Siig and I exhausted since we didn’t sleep a wink, being right next to the toilets and galley with the flight attendants gabbing away. We land in a snow storm. JFK airport is under full panic mode. Flights are being cancelled left and right, including ours to LA. We are placed on a 5 pm flight to Salt Lake City, which leaves us wondering what the hell we are going to do for 9 hours in the JFK airport. But we didn’t worry for long, as that flight got cancelled too. Somehow, miraculously, we got put on standby for an 11 am flight to SLC, one of the last flights to make it out of NY. We got on. I guess God had followed us to NYC and answered my prayers there, too. (New York City does have more Jews than Israel, after all.)
In Salt Lake, we were confirmed on a 9:30 pm flight to Reno. That was way too late. As tired as we were, we would never make it with our sanity intact. We tried going standby for a 3 pm flight. No luck. Our last hope was the 5 pm to Reno. While we waited, I realized I had lost my favorite earring on the last plane, we lost Kaiden for a few minutes on the way back from the bathroom who was found hysterical by a police officer and almost gave me a heart attack, and we ended up leaving Kaiden’s coat in the SLC airport somewhere. Not bad after being awake for 30 hours.
Miraculously, even though we were told there were only 3 open seats on the plane, we all got on. Some man who I am forever indebted to did not show up. I love you, whoever you are. We landed in Reno in a torrential downpour, just as we had left Israel. The drive over the pass to Tahoe was one of the scariest I have ever experienced in my 9 years living here – hydroplaning on bad roads, blinding sleet, the works. “This is what we get after all we had been through on our journey home?”
The children had passed out long ago, on the flight from Salt Lake, and never woke up until morning. In addition to our safe arrival home, God provided us one last miracle – nobody pissed in their pants on the drive home. Including me.