I have to admit it. For many years, traveling anytime between Thanksgiving and New Years left me feeling a lot more like a curmudgeonly Mr. Potter than an optimistic George Bailey. But I have happily turned the corner on holiday despondency – and I have three gallant gentlemen to thank for my elevated state.
As a young mom – or rather, as an older mom of young children – traveling with my family was a lot like herding cats while carrying a small village on my back. After years of being weighed down by car seats, strollers and port-a-cribs, we switched to backpacks, pillows and various sports equipment. Next, it was MP3 players, laptops and ginormous shoes that made every bag I toted feel like a load of bricks.
I felt downtrodden as I loaded heavy luggage on and off baggage racks and suitcase conveyer belts. I looked anything but graceful as I yelled at the boys to stay with me while frantically racing to departure gates wielding all of our possessions and my cheaply made roller bag that tipped over every few feet. The mere thought of a vacation requiring air travel would send me into a psychosomatic state of hives, emotional instability and pseudo-panic attacks.
But no more! This holiday season, while traveling through the airport on yes, the busiest travel time of the year, I suddenly noticed a newfound lightheartedness and buoyancy. At first, I attributed this to my newly acquired TSA pre-check status. (It’s amazing how elated one can feel when not having to remove his or her shoes in the security line.)
But it was bigger than a mere TSA status. As I dance-stepped through the crowded terminal, clad in jeans, a light sweater and carrying my small, leather pocketbook, I glanced to either side of me and smiled with glee. To my right was my 12-year-old son, Eli. On his back was his extra-large Flash backpack stuffed with all of his shoes, clothes and electronics. In one hand, he grasped his Phoenix Suns pillow and cell phone. In the other, he pulled my cheap roller bag, stopping to level its course after it toppled at every turn.
To my left, my 16-year-old son, Levi, carried his duffle bag of personal belongings, a backpack filled with text books, assignments and school supplies, and my unusually large makeup valise filled with all of my necessary hair, skin and cosmetic accoutrements (many of which I confess were larger than the 3-ounce, carry-on versions I was supposed to have packed ahead of time but ended up mindlessly throwing into a suitcase as my husband Mark sat outside in the car honking to remind me that we should have departed half an hour earlier).
Mark lugged his suitcase, computer satchel and my black hole of a tote filled with all of my files, books, laptop and enough food for an army in case we suddenly found ourselves stranded in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with no procurable sustenance in sight.
For several years, we’ve had a hard-fast rule in the Gettleman household. It’s called, “Queen never carries,” or “QNC.” I initiated it after realizing that, although I would never have a frilly little female to accompany me to the shopping mall or with whom I could watch insipid chick flicks or sneak away on spa days, I did have three uber-tall, strapping male companions who were more than capable of doing my heavy lifting.
When I come home from the supermarket, I text my arrival and one, two or three of my male roomies rush out to the car to carry in my groceries. After a long day of auditions or the closing of a show, my trio always meets me, ready to cart in my costumes, props and various other items so I can enter the house unburdened.
QNC has made my life significantly less stressful, improved my herniated disc and made me way less resentful at having to do a boatload of soul-sucking, homemaker tasks I never dreamt would occupy so much of my daily routine. Like osmosis, my QNC rule has seeped into my family’s collective psyche – and without any nagging, nudging or strident declarations from me, the boys have intuitively begun to apply the QNC rule to all circumstances in which I might be inclined to lift, hoist or heave anything heavier than a light jacket or handbag.
This recent vacation prompted a stark revelation. “From this point forward,” I marveled, “I will never have to lug a suitcase, duffle bag or computer bag through an airport.” I looked up and the terminal lights twinkled gleefully as angelic music filled the walkway. I floated effortlessly toward our departure gate, a beatific glow radiating from my countenance. My world was perfect.
I smiled graciously at the gate agent as I victoriously handed her our boarding passes. She matched my broad smile and said, “I’m so sorry, but this flight isn’t until tomorrow. You’re all booked to fly on Thanksgiving afternoon, not today.”
Just when you think you’ve made it in life, reality intrudes, reminding you that yes, Virginia, there is no Utopia, free lunch or Garden of Eden – but there’s still QNC.
Debra Rich Gettleman is a mother, blogger, actor and playwright. For more of her work, visit unmotherlyinsights.com