Opinion

From chaos to a happy landing

I took a short trip by plane this weekend and discovered airports have started something new since my last flight — security lines where travelers self-identify by experience and degrees of personal chaos.

The fastest line, of course, is for the expert traveler, who has all her liquids zipped up tiny and tidy and who knows better than to wear a belt, jewelry or lace-up shoes.

The expert travelers are also people most likely to get so impatient with mothers and children and old folks with big tubes of toothpaste and loose jars of home-made jelly that they’ll start swinging their laptop carriers, or at least have full-blown fantasies of doing so.

I knew the line I belonged in.

Not that I’m without sympathy for the folks in the other lines, the parents with backpacks strapped on their chests and backs, pushing babies in strollers, dragging car seats and toddlers and diaper bags through the maze.

I stood behind a young mother once who was traveling alone with her three children, all of them too young to deal with their own shoes. That’s a total of eight feet to bare for the freedom of America and the safety of our skies.

I’m skeptical that all this searching and stripping really does make us safer. In my most Orwellian vision, I think it’s less about finding terrorists masquerading as 90-year old women in wheelchairs, and more about training an entire population to line up, take orders and not question. This vision frightens me.

Years ago, before 9/11, when I was almost eight months pregnant, I stood in the pre-board line at the gate with my 2-year-old daughter. The gate attendant confronted me with the notion that I was required to have two children to pre-board.

One thing was very clear to me, if not to him: boarding a plane with a toddler in hand and a baby six weeks from delivery counts as two children, and it was going to take more than him and Delta Airlines to make me queue up with the ordinarily unencumbered folks.

Our dear grandbaby took his first flight last week from Portland to Tucson with his folks. He went to visit his other grandmother, Omi, the southern belle, German-descent grandmother with a swimming pool and hot weather in June. I think I lost that round in the grandmother timed trials.

He came to see us in May on one of those weekends when the sun graced us with enough brilliance on Bainbridge Island for the temperature to hold in the 80s for a full day. We celebrated with baby’s first trip to the “beach,” such as it is at the end of Lytle Road.

We do have a wonderful sandy shoreline there, at least when the tide is in. At midday that Saturday, however, the tide was so far out we had to slosh and slip through muck and barnacles and kelp to find enough of the sea for little Riley to dip in his perfect white toes. He wasn’t impressed, but it was a fine photo op.

Riley and his folks had an uneventful flight to Tucson, considering they were traveling with all the aforementioned paraphernalia for the first time. There was one little problem. Riley has a chronic case of baby reflux, which means that once he eats something, there’s a really good chance you’ll see it again when you least expect it.

He did something I think most of us wish we could do: he up-chucked a full bottle of recently downed fluid just as he went through the security line.

I imagine it happening when the uniformed personnel standing behind the little podium with the faux-presidential seal asked him if he was trying to smuggle in any unauthorized liquids. “Not any more,” he might have said, if he were old enough to talk.

Riley is turning 1 year old next week. We’re having the normal two-day birthday extravaganza in Portland to celebrate the first grandchild’s first milestone.

But, there are more things to celebrate in this family that missed last year’s Fourth of July celebration in Winslow because we were with him in the NICU of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. It’s been a year of miracles of medicine and prayers and all the love grammies and grandpas and his parents and our friends around the world could summon.

We’re hoping Riley will join us on the parade route at this year’s Fourth of July celebration. We do a pretty good party here, which is what I whispered into his ear last year when all his vital signs were monitored by a jumble of wires and tubes and flashing electronic graphs and numbers. This year we’ll just look for him to flash his big, toothy grin.

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