After growing up with boy hair, I am crippled daily by a fear of sporting bad hair AGAIN. All it takes is one day in hair disarray and I fear the self consciousness over ugliness creep back up like a wayward curl. Although there were a few years prior to having babies that my hair added aesthetic value to my appearance, overall my hair consistently frustrates me. I long to wear my hair long (pun intended), but my thin locks look fuller in a shorter do. Before we departed for spring break in March, I recognized that I needed a haircut. I resisted the urge knowing that I might require the functional ability to put my hair up in a clip if the crowded hotel room bathroom or the hectic schedule didn't allow for much hair maintenance time.
This year marked our first official spring break vacation. In an attempt to accomplish a few goals, the agenda dictated several stops incorporating more of a 'get-it-done' approach than an actual vacation-feel. The final itinerary resulted in a nutty road trip that included criss-crossing several states and splitting up the family for a few days in two different directions. Any opportunity to escape the tough Chicago Irish dancing market where competition is steep is a welcome retreat, so we set out for Pittsburgh where the girls (who are more competitively committed to dancing) competed in hopes of winning the necessary medals to advance to the next level. The next day I jetted to Montreal with Reggie so he could compete for 5 minutes with his ceili team in the World Championships of Irish dancing. This off shoot of the trip was mandated by the dancing teachers. The added expense, agenda disruption, and spousal irritation was mind blowing. Meanwhile back in the great -white (12 seater, Chevy express van), Coach led the rest of the crew off the beaten path to tour a few colleges that Laddie wanted to check out. Once the college scene and the World Championship leg of the trip was history, Reggie and I reunited with the rest of the family via airplane in Washington D.C. Coach has been wanting to show the kids D.C, so once the 'business' portion of the trip was complete we toured the nation's capital and jogged down to Virgina to hit Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Monticello. An acquaintance heard our itinerary and asked me if my middle name was Rand McNally.
Rather than lose an entire afternoon regrouping at the hotel, I suggested to Coach that we cross paths at Arlington National Cemetery. After a bit of research I realized that Reggie and I could jump aboard the metra at the airport and arrive at Arlington National Cemetery. After all, we needed to make the most of our limited time after devoting days to our diverse agenda. When I discovered that our flight was delayed out of Montreal, I convinced the personnel to move us to another airline so we would meet our connection at Laguardia. Fortunately they were very accommodating, and our itinerary was adjusted. An hour to make our connection seemed doable. I had no idea that we would be required to exit the airport, wait for a bus, and endure another security check point before racing thru the airport to locate the correct terminal. They were boarding first class passengers for our flight when we raced up panting for breath. I handed Reg the handle to our little carry on with wheels and our boarding passes. Promising to be right back, I darted to the restroom. My pit stop took a few minutes longer than I anticipated, and as I trotted back to the gate I witnessed a very serious Reggie attempting to board the plane. The woman he was handing our boarding passes to looked beyond him with a confused expression searching for a responsible adult. Waving my hands around, I admitted that this was my independent son. I explained how I had just run to the bathroom. I questioned Reggie on his willingness to ditch me at the airport once we were seated. He simply shrugged and stated that they announced last call to board. Reggie is a task master and he likes to get things done (thus the nickname 'Reggie' which is short for regimented), but attempting to travel alone was a stretch.
Once on the ground, I texted Coach to let him know our flight landed 15 minutes early. I was excited to get our trip back on track and put the alternate universe of Irish dancing, where a fool (myself included) pays dancing teachers to control their every move, behind me. With no explanation, we were told after landing to exit the plane from the rear of the aircraft on this very windy day. After we deplaned, we entered the airport windblown and in search of signs for the metra. Within minutes we were at the airport metra station having only one carry on bag and my over-sized purse. Traveling light paid off. Beautiful.
I asked a woman working at the station how to purchase tickets to the Arlington National Cemetery station. She helped me buy the tickets at the self serve machine and then guided me to the correct escalator. Pointing up, she instructed me to get on the train on the left of the platform at the top of the escalator. Reggie and I were on our way. Waiting on the platform I asked a man next to me if this was the correct 'blue line' train because I wanted to go to Arlington National. He nodded. Train pulled up and we boarded. We followed along on the schedule ticking off the three stops prior to our destination. Rising from our seats, we positioned ourselves near the door. Reggie peered out as the train slowed down and alerted me that this was not the Arlington National Cemetary stop. My stomach dropped as I verified what he was saying. A woman wearing a business suit and running shoes leaned towards us and asked us where we were headed. She pointed out that we had mistakenly boarded the 'yellow' line. In a state of denial, I insisted that we were in fact on the blue line. She explained that the two trains share a track, but then veer off in opposite directions around the city. She began to instruct me how to get back to the blue line as I exited the train pulling the carry on behind me. Reggie was between the business woman and our little wheeled bag. I focused on what she was telling me as I moved thru the door of the train. Suddenly she yelled out, 'The doors!'
There wasn't time to react. The doors closed. Reggie was inside the train on the other side of the doors. The air was sucked out of my lungs. I gasped and started shouting and pounding on the window. I could see Reggie's panic stricken face calling out to me, but his voice was so muffled. The car was towards the front of the train. I thought for sure an employee would open the doors when they heard my panic stricken hollering. I was screaming for them to open the doors. It all happened so fast. The business woman put her hands on Reggie's shoulders. She shook her head as if to tell me that my screams were worthless. She pointed at the ground where I stood and mouthed the words, 'Stay right there!' With a gush of air and a lurch the train was gone. That was the hardest part. I could no longer see Reggie.
My screams didn't stop. People came running from all everywhere. They directed me upstairs. I remember muttering to them that I needed to stay there. This woman would bring Reg back to me. She told me to stay where I was. I was too weak to argue. My stomach kept doing flips and it was hard to balance on my noodle-like legs. They led me up an escalator to the security office where metra personnel were chatting and laughing. The relaxed atmosphere was shattered when I raced up pulling the carry on and shouting that my son was left on the train. They jumped to attention. I was asked what Reggie was wearing and whether or not he was carrying his cell phone. Although no explanation was necessary, I explained that I don't do cell phones until high school and he was just nine years old. He knew my cell number though. I described the Irish dancing hooded sweatshirt that he was wearing. A woman at the desk made a phone call and a minute later told me that no one had reported a lost boy. I kept telling them that there was a woman. I was sure she was helping him. At some point I called Coach. He asked me to stop crying, because he couldn't understand me. I repeated to him with a quivering voice and stifled tears that Reggie and I got separated and he was still on the train. Coach told me not to worry. 'I'm sure he will come back.' Did he think this was a ride at Disney? The security man who was reassuring me while the woman was making phone calls placed my bag in the booth and took me down to the incoming train platform. I argued with him at first. 'The woman told me to wait on that side.' He pointed out that if she was bringing Reggie back, they would return from this side of the tracks.
A train pulled in. My legs were still shaking. I got slightly dizzy as I scanned each car that passed us before the train stopped. I started to mumble to myself that they weren't there. Then I saw Reggie. Right by the door of one of the last cars. The business woman was behind him. They were turned away from the window, because she was pointing to the other side of the tracks where she expected to see me. I started to whimper to the reassuring man, 'That's him. That's my son. She brought him back.' The doors opened. 'I'm here,' I called. Reggie was buried in my embrace in an instant. In typical Reggie fashion, he appeared very stoic. No tears. I tried to thank the woman. The words kept getting stuck in my throat. I'm sure this woman was ready to continue her commute home. She admitted that it was a very scary ordeal, but that everything was fine and she was glad she could be of help. Finally I told her how much I appreciated the time she took out of her day to assist me. And then she disappeared into the sea of people moving on and off the trains.
Reggie and I retrieved our wheeled bag from the security office. We now knew to pay attention to a small light on the side of the train that would identify what color train it was. This would have been good information to have when I inquired about boarding the blue train from two different sources from the get go . . . especially the woman whose job it was to direct people.
I held Reggie's hand tightly as we waited for the correct train. I saw my own reflection in the
windows of other trains as they sped from the station. My hair was standing
on end thanks in part to deplaning and walking across the windy tarmac. The other part was the questionable hair products I had relied on that morning in our Montreal hotel room. I packed light for Canada to maintain a mobile and simple travel plan, but in doing so I had jeopardized my good hair standard. I threw in whatever partially-filled 4 oz travel
size clear containers I could scrounge up in the depths of my bathroom
vanity before we left Chicago. Not having traveled via a carry on
for quite some time, I sniffed at these unlabeled tubes and guessed at
which were hair products at the last minute. I fear that I was wearing oil of olay in my hair instead of my
usual hair creme. My longer hair travel requirement may have allowed me to fudge my
way thru my styling routine but now I suspected even the pull-it-up option would fail me. In addition to Medusa hair, my face was pinched. I resembled a lunatic woman. A woman
who you would expect to lose her child on the subway system. It looked as if I
was preparing for a role in a made for TV movie.
There were many lessons to be learned from our underground train ordeal. Perhaps I need to stop taking on too much. Live more simply. Don't over complicate. Slow down. Learn to say no (even if it means no more Irish dancing involvement). Get a haircut. It was definitely a moving experience. Of course the first thing I did when I got home was to schedule a hair cut, so perhaps that was the lesson that hit home the hardest. Of course the first thing Coach pointed out to me when we were reunited at Arlington National Cemetery was that he managed to travel with five kids, and he didn't lose any of them. So . . . while I was feeling ugly, he was being cute.