In a job with infinite (read: free) logistical possibilities, one would think it would be easy to get home for the holidays.
Maybe if you’ve worked for your airline for 25+ years you can rest assured that time with loved ones won’t be impeded, but as a new hire flight attendant you’re told not to make plans. As I’ve mentioned before, everything is rewarded based on seniority and this most definitely includes times off. Since my airline has been hiring like the dickens this year, my seniority as a reserve has skyrocketed and I’m pretty much able to get the time off I want every time.
But November and December are a different kind of animal.
Not only does every one want Christmas off, they want New Years Eve and Day too. And let’s not forget Thanksgiving.
I decided to be “smart” and not even bid Thanksgiving off. Why set myself up for disappointment, you know? I told myself it would be best to let people with kids and husbands get successful bids for holidays off and I’d just be the bigger person and celebrate it at some other point in time but not actually on date(s) that the Hallmark cards and Seasonal Sales tell us.
I managed to keep this cavalier, up-beat attitude until my mother casually mentioned that she and my father would be traveling to middle Tennessee to visit my 91 year old grandmother for Thanksgiving. (For those of you just tuning in, Darcy and I had a lovely visit with her in August, which I documented in this post). 99.9% of the time, we spend Thanksgiving in Chattanooga and cook dinner around 2 and are done eating by 4. We then turn on a football game and drift in and out of consciousness for the rest of the day.
When I heard this news, I was really depressed. My little optimistic veneer of “oh it doesn’t matter” vanished and I realized how few Thanksgivings might be left to get to visit Grandma. In addition, when I found out I would be on a trip to Las Vegas for Turkey Day, a city entirely dedicated to superficial fanfare, I dreaded missing out on quality time with my family even more.
Then something amazing happened.
I was sitting in my hotel room in Orlando, bawling to Darcy about how much I missed everyone back home, and planning to meet up with an old college acquaintance who happened to be in Vegas on a business trip, when I got a call from Scheduling. Apparently some flight attendant who was also in Orlando had gotten sick and they needed someone to take their place on an early flight to Philly the next day. What this meant for me was I would not go to Vegas, but get paid for the rest of my trip (2 days worth) to fly to Philly and then go home.
Translation: I was given a PAID opportunity to go home and spend time with my family.
This turned out to be easier said than done, however. The closest airport to my grandmother’s home is Nashville, and I searched all possible flights from Philly to Nashville. As it turned out, the last flight to Nashville that day would leave 30 minutes before I even arrived in Philly. Big bummer.
A few quick searches showed me the last flight from Charlotte to Nashville would leave before I could get from Philly to Charlotte as well. I tried everything I could think of. Philly to Washington DC to Nashville? Nope. Philly to Charlotte to Chattanooga and then drive to Nashville? Too late. It began to seem like nothing would work out after all. I called my dad, with a heavy heart, and explained the situation to him.
“Why not check Philly to Knoxville?” he asked, after a moment’s thought.
It seemed like a long shot, but sure enough, there was exactly one flight from Philly to Knoxville that would leave about 40 minutes after I got there.
“But you’d have to drive to Knoxville and then drive all the way to Grandmas. That would be like 6 hours of driving for you instead of 2.5.”
I could hear my dad smiling on the other end of the phone.
“Honey, I would drive much farther than that if it meant getting to see you. I love you, you know that.”
I’m pretty sure what came out of my mouth next wasn’t English; mainly unintelligible sobs of joy and relief. I love my dad. He is seriously the best father I could ever ask for, and in that moment I savored the real meaning of giving thanks. A holiday like Thanksgiving was about the unpleasant sacrifice our ancestors made to be together in a new home. In recent months, my life has been a sort of pilgrim-like existence…..wandering hither and thither, trying to figure out where I belong in this big, goofy world.
That conversation with my dad taught me that I may be a vagabond right now, but my home is most definitely with them. It always has been and always will be. It doesn’t matter where I am. Like some invisible, unbreakable string, our hearts are linked together and the sacrifices we are willing to make to be with each other are both unconditional and extensive. I am so, so, so beyond grateful for this gift.
Dad and I had a fantastic roadtrip together, wherein we tried to get some T-Day vittles at every single Cracker Barrel from Knoxville to Dickson, TN. And every single time but the last attempt (at around 6 pm), there was no room for one more vehicle at any one of the restaurants. It was hilarious (and a very profitable day for anyone who happens to own a franchise!)
My time with grandmother was priceless. She’s still her spunky, wise, adorable self, and I got to spend hours talking and catching up. I also got to watch Dr. Who with my aunt Betty, and walk all around the 30 acres of property. Tennessee really is beautiful beyond compare (not that I’m biased or anything).
My advice to those constantly traveling this holiday season? Even if you can’t physically be with the people you love, take time to call them and let them know you care. Life is short, and even more so when most of it is spent commuting. Slow down for a minute and savor the people who remember you when you’re gone.