My family lives all over this great country. It takes many flights, rental cars and tanks of gas to get all 21 of us together. It also takes years of planning.
This past Thanksgiving, my teenage boys and I left sunny Florida for upstate New York for a long over due family gathering with one set of grandparents, seven siblings, four spouses and 12 grandchildren. We hadn’t brought the group all together in more than a decade. We couldn’t have been more excited.
Getting there on JetBlue from Florida went off without a hitch and all other travelers arrived just fine. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.
Our journey gets complicated
However, just days later when it was time for us to head back home, our journey began to unravel. We stayed in a hotel in my hometown about 90 minutes away from the airport. We had an early flight home that day so the boys could get home to spend part of the holiday with their father. So, timing was everything to make it home on time.
- JetBlue emailed me the day before the flight to announce that the flight had been delayed. I’d never heard of a flight being delay the day before it was to take off, but hey, what do I know. But, the hour or so delay meant that getting home on time so the boys could get to their dad’s was going to be hard to pull off. Maybe, doable, but hard.
- Next, our hotel didn’t make the requested wake up call and we nearly didn’t rise at 4:30 am as needed. But, years of anxiety flying must have honed my ability inner clock so I woke up at 4:45 without the call. We hurried around our room, taking quick showers and last minute packing. With two teen-age boys, it isn’t really that bad. They really don’t care what their hair looks like or what they are throwing on to wear. But, I was a bit panicky all the same.
- Finally, we got out the door, grabbing cold bagels and my coffee from the hotel complimentary breakfast as we headed through the cold morning darkness to our rental car. We piled everything in and I was happy we were only about 10 minutes behind our schedule.
- However, once in the rental car, the car wouldn’t start. The battery was dead and there wasn’t anything that would change that. The car was also parked against a curb, a bush and a tree. No way to get jumper cables to the hood. Yikes, now this was getting frustrating.
- I told the boys to unload the car and I ran back to the hotel lobby and met with the night clerk. Please God, let him have jumpers. Nope, he didn’t, though I new I wasn’t going to be able to use them. Next, I call the rental car company, which wasn’t open yet and wouldn’t be for hours.
- Then I made a snap decision. I told the clerk to take the keys and gave him the number of the rental agency. “I will call the company and have them pick up the car later,” I told him.
- I ran to my sister’s room and banged on the door. She came running to the door, wiping away sleep and worried that something must be really wrong. Nope, I need a ride and fast!
- My sister got dressed quickly and I woke up her 10-year-old son and we all ran to her car and piled in. Her son had that little kid daze of knowing he had to go along with what was happening, but had no idea what was going on.
- My gratitude for my sister’s willingness to haul herself and her kid out of bed at what was now 5:15 am on a cold New York morning and drive us 90 minutes one way to the airport, very quickly faded when just one mile into the trip HER rental car blew a tire on the highway. I guess that the cold and the tire pressure just didn’t mesh.
- From the side of the road, with now three kids in the crammed back seat and my sister on the phone with OnStar, I called my brother, who was back at the hotel, sleeping with his family.
- His wife answered, “What’s wrong?” Before I could get the entire story out, she was telling my brother to get dressed and within what seemed like seconds, my brother was pulling up behind our broken car on the side of the road.
- We unpacked the car and repacked my brother’s with cars whizzing by in the dark morning light. I kissed my sister and her son, who had to stay with the car and wait for a tow back to the hotel, which was within sight! And we headed to Westchester Airport to catch our flight.
Thank God for Family
My brother drove us to the airport, happily and making jokes the whole way with the boys. I couldn’t believe my blessings that I had such wonderful siblings. He dropped us at the curb and we ran to the car rental counter, where I explained what happened and where they could find their car. I hoped they wouldn’t mind, um. We got through security pretty quickly and without much trouble, except that my now cold coffee cup couldn’t come through!
When we got on the plane, I finally relaxed and my heart slowed to a normal beat. My kids settled in, too. We all spoke again and again how great it felt to be so loved that our family would come so readily to our rescue.
I got the boys home to their dad’s late by an hour. Not bad, I thought, considering.
And my brother was right, we all got a story to tell and a fond member worth living.