Living in the tension

Well, on Monday, we flew over to Europe again. I had to remind myself what was in our suitcases as I pictured them still having the contents of our last trip.

Our journey was almost uneventful. Ayo seems to be getting the hang of flying. He now enjoys looking out the window and he pants for take-off and landing when peering outside. It’s pretty cute. Thankfully, we had a bassinet for him to sleep in. Unfortunately, three other families were putting their children to bed in our same bulkhead row. And most unfortunately, the 13 month old screamed bloody murder for s.i.x of the nine hours.

Please allow me to clarify. This was no “trying to figure out how to sleep in a different place” fuss. This was full on: inconsolable, arms flailing, hyperventilating, top-of-the-lungs loud that the plane hum refused to cover it up. I sat in that row as I watched his poor parents try in vain to put him down (repeat x 10), pass him to another passenger, feed him solids, nurse him and eventually snap at one another. All 150 passengers in that cabin started to get fidgety as they realized their prospects of getting any sleep were rapidly dwindling. I turned back and saw passengers many rows back with hands covering their ears. It was a total tense nightmare.

I danced between being irritation and feeling deeply for these parents, who had no clue what to do with their son. All I knew is that the nine hour flight to Frankfurt was only half way for them. So, to try to minimize our own dread of coping with Ayo’s jet lag after a sleepless night, TM and I tried to imagine what could possibly have caused this child to be so besides himself for six full hours. To do this, we made up hysterical, overly dramatic stories. I can’t remember the stories in full that we conjured up, just that we were laughing so hard by the end – eyes closed and all. Please don’t think we were mocking them. We were laughing at fabrications coming from our own delirious, sleep-deprived minds. Something about baby’s teeth coming in all at once that day, in a double layer and they had just told him he was going to have them all removed by a dentist without anesthetic in Mumbai comes to mind.

Shortly after, another passenger with far less humor, finally told the poor mama to “please do something” with her son. When she responded: “sir, we’re trying!!”, he told her to “take him to the bathroom!”. I really felt compassion for that mama in her walk of shame to the tiny WC, but I think the man gave her a good suggestion. We can’t always predict a meltdown, but when it affects sleep for 150 people, you just have to take it upon yourself to endure the screaming alone. So, now I’m curious. At what point, if at all, would you have approached the mother? And, knowing that an infant will most likely take longer to fall asleep in this environment, how long do you think is appropriate/courteous to let him settle to sleep on an airplane full of people? I feel my own limit is about 5-7mins. I feel a bit rude disturbing the cabin longer than that, though we did have that 50 minute breakdown, when we couldn’t do anything about it. That one was a daytime flight but maybe I should have visited the WC then as well?

Anyway, we transferred in Frankfurt without a wink of sleep, but at the end of the day, you get over it. It’s just a night of sleep. The couple however, stared at the transfer screen, looking for their flight to Mumbai, blurry eyed and visibly hurt by one another. I think they will remember that flight for a long time. I know I wrote that I wouldn’t always debrief our flights, but I feel I learned so much through that experience: about my own irritation, about the need for compassion and not to idolize sleep and about how easily we snap at our spouse when we feel helpless.

Ayo slept almost the whole next flight #14 to Geneva on my lap, as you can see in this rare photo. It was so precious. In fact, the whole flight was luxury. I read the Swiss paper discussing French politics, listened to Italian passengers, spoke German to the attendants and rehearsed the vocab from my Mandarin lesson. I liken constantly using my languages as I do in Europe to drinking a green superfood smoothie. It gives me energy and life.. and comes so naturally. It makes me sad how little I engage this side of my brain in the States. I’m still not sure what to do about this conundrum.

So, that was all on Monday. Yesterday, I dropped Tall Mountain off at GVA airport again. We shared one overpriced lover’s coffee at the airport whilst Ayo got some papi and mamie spoiling back in their village (in France). We chose to go to Martel chocolaterie and tea house, because Martel brings back so many memories of delicious chocolate and pastries, many a work lunch and, oh yeah… branded corporate chocolate gifts gone terribly wrong (hundreds of homemade choco squares off by 0.2mm, it’s a long story.. gaaah!). Earning CHF, I never used to think about the price of things at Martel, but now I do. It’s just another reminder that I no longer fully belong to this system. That hurts when everything feels so familiar: the roads, the foods, the people, the language and so much more. TM departed for India and I ran back to the parking lot with one minute to spare before it would have jumped up another $4 (phew!). I listened to WRS playing James Blunt’s slightly cheesy “You’re Beautiful” on the way home. I actually had a little tear letting myself feel the painful tension. I thought to myself: Indeed, you’re a beautiful city, Geneva, but it’s time to face the truth. I will never be with you.

At least never again like before.
There was a little mourning of my past life in that moment.

5 thoughts on “Living in the tension

  1. I have been adding and erasing things for the past hour in attempts to expand on the last three sentences. Alas, there is too much behind that iceberg to unravel in a sentence or two. I capitulate.

  2. I hadn’t realised that you had actually lived in Geneva! for how long?
    Wow that must of been a long flight!! Was ayo able to sleep?
    I would of probably suggested maybe after an hour, to maybe just let her kid nurse the whole flight through! lol !
    Same here, i’d probably let her cry 5mn & than would feel the need to get up, don’t like bothering people!

    1. I lived on the French border for three years or so. Several flights, so it’s pretty exhausting, but could be worse (like US to India or to Australia). We’ve done it three times – Ayo usually sleeps on the nighttime flight (US -> France). The mother tried to nurse her child so many times. I think it was just an off day for her!

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