The day of our trip was nearing and my father had told me that he would be accompanying us from Washington, D.C. After all, this was his father and he should be there for the funeral. My relief was immense. And then, I had to begin reminding him to purchase his ticket and renew his passport quickly. My father is extremely intelligent and driven but what daughter doesn't worry and make sure her father takes care of his non-work related business.
The relief, the night before the trip when my father arrived on my doorstep to come with my older daughter and myself, was immense. The sound of my daughter's sleepy voice the next morning finding her Dziadek awake on our sofa was priceless. "Dziadek! Are you coming to Poland with me and Mommy?" And the gigantic hug she threw around his neck when he confirmed her suspicions was a moment I think my father will always hold in his memories.
A few minutes later, my house was filled with a flurry of activity. My daughter was dressed and her hair tossed into two "Kitki" (piggie tales), we adults pulled ourselves together and my husband was hugged and kissed by "his two girls", as he called us.
We pulled away in my father's car to the airport and the adventure began...
After a drive filled with my father's techno music and a million questions and giggles from the backseat by my older daughter, we arrived at the airport. My father smoked a cigarette while I put the teddy bear book bag with lease on my daughter and we all took a shuttle from the parking lot to the airport.
As we sat down, my daughter announced to the driver and everyone else on the shuttle that "we are going to Poland where my Mommy and Dziadek are from! And, guess what? I'm Polish too!" Her 3 year old eyes widened as she saw airplane after airplane take off and land on the airstrips. My father pointed out a Lufthansa plane and said "See that biiiig plane? That is the kind you will be on shortly."
Getting off the shuttle, she turned to the driver and waved, "Good bye! Thank you very much!" and the driver smiled as she closed the door.
I wondered, "Is she going to talk to everyone she sees? Is she going to be this happy on the plane? How will this work?"
The sky above us turned dark, clouds blowing in quickly and bringing a massive thunderstorm. My father smoked one more cigarette before we went inside. The wind blew our luggage down and my daughter squealed as it blew against her forcefully. Lightening flashed across the sky and I started my usual pre flight panic in my mind.
My hand nervously kept squeezing the handle of the leash, reassuring myself that she was a good listener and that I had the leash as well, in case she was fidgety. She smiled up at me, knowing that she had on a leash and the reasons why as she held my hand and watched as thousands of thousands of travelers walked through the airport.
We checked in and she noticed that the woman taking our passports had a Polish accent. "Mommy! Mommy, she's Polish, too!" I explained that the woman was German, as we were flying through Lufthansa. "Oh! Cooool!" The woman smiled at her but you could tell this was not the first time a child with an American accent and her mother had said this. Perhaps, she did not realize this was no novelty but rather my daughter becoming worldly in a way many kids are never fortunate enough to experience.
We went through security and she stayed close to me the whole time. Not out of fear, but out of an awareness I always thought she had about such situations but which we had never tested out before. She removed her shoes and handed them to the TSA worker, smiling up at her and saying "Thank you!" The TSA employees were all very patient and calm with us, smiling at her contagious joy at the entirely new experience.
I kept her informed during the whole experience in the airport about what we had to do in each section and answered all her questions and she drank up every detail. This child was a born traveler. Did she have "Gypsy Blood"? Very much so.
A mother with two children looked at my leash and commented what a great idea it was, with all the bustle of airports. I knew I had made a wise decision but it would not yet become entirely clear why.
When we arrived at our departure gate, she asked more questions and began to play with a little German boy while we parents watched on, trying rather successfully to communicate to one another about our children.
My father and I watched out the large windows as the storm raged outside. I asked him in Polish if the flight would be affected and he shrugged, trusting the pilot to know how to perform his job safely. My daughter showed no fear at the storm, after all, the angels in Heaven were holding a party!
A plane taxied over to the terminal next to ours and passengers poured out, she watched fascinated. "That is going to be like us, Mommy!" Our plane was loaded with luggage and she watched, hoping to catch a glimpse of her luggage.
When it was time to board the plane and hour and a half after schedule, we were allowed to get on earlier than other passengars as we had a child with us. She handed her ticket to the flight attendant and said, "Hi! I'm going to Poland!" The flight attendant told her, "Wow! That's so nice! I hope you have fun!" She nodded and said "Thank you! Oh, I mean, Dziekujem!"
We found our seats and she tried to help by looking at the numbers. She sat between her Dziadek and myself, smiling and looking all around, pushing buttons, and asking questions.
We buckled her in with a pillow between her stomach and her belt, her bottom completely against the back of the chair as the flight attendants double checked her twice. I was also instructed to do the same as I was at this point becoming noticeably pregnant.
I instructed my daughter to pay close attention to the flight attendants during the flight, not to jump around, cross herself and ask God for a safe flight and to behave the way I knew she could. She took a piece of candy from her Dziadek, smiled at us both and the plane took off.
We were off to Munich, Germany. Our stop on the way to Wroclaw, Poland.
And she said "Weeeeeeeeeee!"...
To Be Continued...