It was the end of what had been a magical trip. Just a little over a week prior, Cate and I somewhat spontaneously and with the help of good friends, flew ‘across the pond’ to London. We started at a B&B that I randomly found, which was nestled along a river and at the end of a picturesque tree lined laneway. We then moved to Chorleywood, a village considered part of the Greater London Urban Area. Those good friends I just mentioned found us a house to stay in while the owners were away, we just had to feed their cat.
Cate and I mostly wandered the entirety of our trip. We walked and took transit. When we felt hungry, we would stop to eat. It was an unusually hot and sunny time in the UK, which led to Cate getting a terrible sunburn that she kept declaring, “wasn’t that bad”. We went to the Tate Modern and our favourite, the National Portrait Gallery. The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street turned out to be fantastic. We also got to eat the best Indian take-out with our friends in their beautiful back garden.
With all of these and so many more memories stowed, we arrived at the airport to get home. I don’t like to be late, so we even got there a little early- more than three hours ahead for a 1 pm flight. We settled in, got a drink and positioned ourselves close to the screen that would tell us what gate we would be boarding at. For the first hour it said, “Gate pending”. I spoke with an attendant who assured us there was enough time to grab something to eat. We found sushi on a conveyor belt, which Cate loved, and found our way back to the screen. At this point there was a blank space where the Gate number should have been. This did not change, for hours.
By mid-afternoon, well after our flight should have been in the air, every passenger was asked to go to a room in another area of the airport. We had to show our identification to get in. Once it was certain everyone was there, they told us the news: your flight has been cancelled. There are no alternative flights, so you are stuck here for at least the next three days. In order to get a voucher for a hotel and food you must line up in yet another area. If you leave, you forfeit any help from the airline. Cue general hysteria.
Cate and I felt so bad for some of our fellow passengers. One was going to miss their only sibling’s wedding. Another only brought enough of their medication for the trip and could be in serious trouble without it. Some people were extremely mad and expressed it by shouting. As we filed out of what was a very claustrophobic room, the tensions only increased. Then we proceeded to wait in line…for hours, with no access to food. I am not joking when I say that Cate was the calmest person in the room. She found a spot to sit, listened to music, drew pictures, and read while I tried to sort out our next moves on the phone and in prayer. It was midnight by the time Cate and I got to the front of the line.
Fortunately, and rather miraculously, not only did we get one of the last hotel rooms available, they found us a flight for the next day. However, it was at a different airport and clear across town from the hotel. We would have to leave the hotel at 4 am. By this point the promise of even three hours of sleep in a bed felt like a win, so we took the offer and got in a cab. Having not eaten since before noon, we needed food. Unfortunately, the only thing open was a gas station outside of the hotel, so we bought instant ramen noodles, chocolate bars, and drinks (the dinner of champions). As we finally walked up to the hotel, we noticed that it was pulsating because of blaring music. Of course, it was prom night. A whole lot of sequins and teenage angst made my exhausted self burst into laughter. Cate immediately suggested we join the party.
We did get home the next day. It was a trip to remember, in so many ways. I tell this story now because I think it says a lot about who Cate is, and on this eve before Mother’s Day, I am thinking about her. There is an optimism to Cate that is striking. It’s not that she hasn’t experienced hard things- in fact, I would argue she is more acquainted with challenge than someone her age even should be. This has not made her hard though. She loves an adventure and is almost always up for a party. When a flight I was supposed to be on was recently cancelled, Cate’s text to me was this: “Oh alright! You should have a wild night in Dallas. It’ll be great”. That’s my girl. I am so grateful to be her mom.