Submitted by Kelsey Sprowell
I had a profoundly human experience on an airplane this morning and after tumbling it over in my mind, it seems fit to share it.
First, some background: I should have been home from my business trip by now. My flight from Louisiana to Dallas was delayed by more than three hours last night so I missed my connection to Cedar Rapids and was rebooked on a flight this morning. At the gate, the agent changed my seat; when I boarded, another woman and her elderly mother were sitting there, so I picked another. The steward came through and reshuffled us again, and then we sat on the tarmac for a while waiting out a storm. I overheard the woman behind me tell the steward that she’d never traveled with a baby, and I noticed she had an infant. All of this is to say: it seems like a Godwink that any of this happened in the first place.
A half an hour into the flight, I was caffeinated to the gills and absently reading some stories saved on my phone for exactly such an occasion when there was a big thud, and then gasps. The passenger behind me had fallen asleep and dropped the baby. She picked up the baby, who had startled, but not cried. The passengers around us looked around uncomfortably - what do you do when someone drops a baby?! I threw my phone in my bag, unbuckled my seatbelt, got up, and reached out my arms for the babe. I had a million thoughts at once: this one looked about four months old, and this was obviously Grandma, not Mom. People, babies are so freaking hard, and when my girls were that little, I often felt like the only reason I didn’t drop them when I fell asleep is because of some biochemical muscle activation that kicked in because I grew them myself, and this lady clearly didn’t have that advantage. I flew with my kids a bunch; it’s like traveling with a bobcat and all of the materials in its enclosure. No one offers to help, but everyone offers judgement. Grandma handed me the baby as I told her, “I’m a mom, my babies are at home, let me hold your baby so you can get some sleep.”
After I sat down again I noticed that the woman across the aisle from me was crying. I held her gaze for long enough to prompt her to talk, and she said, “I’m sorry. I’m flying home from dropping my son off at rehab. I’m so scared.” I asked if she wanted to sit next to me, and she said no. I asked if she wanted to hold the baby - by this point Grandma had fallen back asleep - and she said yes. We took turns passing the baby back and forth.
After Grandma woke up, she told me the baby’s name was Peanut. The woman across the aisle told me her son’s name was Max and that he’s 22. I cried with her getting off the plane, because I know that mama love, and I can imagine what her heart feels like leaving her kiddo in Texas. We all parted ways, and I can’t stop thinking about any of them.
So if you’re the praying type, remember Peanut in your prayers, and also her mom and grandma, and definitely Max and his mom, too. And for God’s sake, go out of your way to be nice to people. Being a human is hard work. The world needs it.