No Rest for the Weary

“Ma’am!”
 
The flight attendant barks at me like I’m a stray dog begging for a scrap of food. I let the curtain close behind us and ignore her intimidating glare. “You can’t stay back here. Take your child somewhere else.” 
 
What? Please, no. I’d just spent ten minutes walking up and down narrow aisles, searching for a place to escape with my screaming five year old son. I tried to move far away from the majority of sleeping passengers and even farther from the angry stares of the ones we’d already woken. 

I thought I’d found our refuge.

I can’t read the nametag pinned high on the left side of her uniform, but the woman I mentally christen “witch” looks at me like I’m crazy and she’s right. I feel crazy, like I, too, could come undone any second. Push the wrong button, say the wrong word or look at me the wrong way and I’ll crumble, an ancient statue in ruins from the harsh elements. I hate my frantic need to explain to her that despite how it looks, my son is not having a tantrum, my compulsion to convince her that I am a good mother even though I don’t believe it myself. 

Anger catches in my throat and strangles me as I protectively hug my son tighter. I struggle to keep his flailing legs from connecting with anything in the rear galley as if containing his errant limbs will solve everything. He thrashes in my arms and cries for me even as I hold him, his eyes frightened yet vacant. Although I’m inches from his face he doesn’t know me, nor will he remember one second of this night terror when he wakes up. Neither of us can be held accountable for his behavior and yet I feel guilty.
 
Snot and tears drip down that precious face but I don’t wipe them away since I will only agitate him more if I do. Shifting my son to my other hip, I rock and bounce to comfort him, knowing full well it won’t help. I do it for myself to keep hold of the last, small thread of sanity I still own. I move so I don’t have to think, as I’ve done my entire adult life. I am exhausted after travelling 24 hours with a five-year-old and a nine-year-old, knowing I have 16 more to go before arriving home in Virginia, halfway across the world from Malaysia and my failed marriage.
 
“Ma’am! Did? You? Hear? Me?”
 
There’d better be a special place in hell for people like her with no sympathy for crying children or their desperate mothers. She never asks if we’re okay, if there’s anything she can do to help, or even suggests another place we can go to keep from waking the dead. We’re on our own for the next ten minutes until the cycle ends. Although my son’s episodes occur less frequently as he gets older, they never get any shorter. I used to joke that I could set my watch by the length of his breakdown. How did I ever find that amusing?  

I take a deep breath, swallow the sickening self-pity that bubbles out of me like mud in a hot spring and return to wandering the aisles, waiting for the coming silence.

 

Jody Barnocky Hedstrom is a Certified Family Mediator by day and a non-fiction writer by night who stays busy researching material for a biography about Adam Lambert.

Category: Airplanes

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