Ponytails, photos and promises.
Things have been rough, for a while, REAL rough. I was needing something that only one of my very best, and oldest friends could provide. To be hugged. Really hugged. The kind of hug that can only come from someone who knows you, knows your story, knows your flaws (and in my case, knows I’m crazy)...and chooses to love you regardless and without familial obligation. This long weekend away from my real life and problems was perfect. I got everything I went for, and more. I met some great people, people that I hope to someday call friends, and spent some much needed time catching up with one of my best. It was fun, comfortable, easy and sadly, it was over. I thought.
Three SOLID days of knocking back adult beverages containing, what I truly believe in my heart to be the sweet nectar of Idaho’s soul - in fact I’m certain it is the very liquid that cuts it’s way through the twists and turns of the Snake River (It’s huckleberry vodka, people. 44 North. Huckleberry Vodka!), I board a teensy remote controlled plane for the flight home.
Row 20, seat A. Ugh. Seriously?! I’m finding it hard to believe this thing has 20 rows as I make my way down the aisle. Perfect, row 20 seat B is being occupied by a single mother who looks like she has recently partied much harder than myself and is trying to restrain a jumping infant on her lap that is screaming bloody hell from underneath it’s little, red, illness encrusted face. It’s gonna be a long hour I’m thinking. After a quick round of Twister, I am seated and trying desperately to act like I have no idea that spitty animal crackers are being thrown at me. Those of you that know me well, know this is going to be a problem. Anesthetic emergency, bring it. Screaming child, I’m out. A few minutes go by, and a flight attendant shows up to let this desperate young mother next to me know that the two seats in front of us will not be filled, and she and her monster baby can relocate if they so choose. EXCELLENT! Now, I’m thinking, I can catch a quick nap and sober up a bit before we land. I slouch down, put my sunglasses on and shut my eyes. A few seconds later I hear this: “Perfect, why don’t you sit right here so I can keep a close eye on you. Can you show me how to buckle your seat belt? Good job. Can you show me how to unbuckle your seat belt? That's great. I’ll check on you in a bit”. Not so much as a sound mumbled by my new seat partner. Eyes still shut, having no idea what kind of company I’m keeping (and frankly not caring...I mean, I haven’t been hit with anything edible yet best I can tell, so I’m good) I reach up and pull out the rubber band that’s been holding up my messy, tangled hair and really get settled in. I can feel the relentless stare of my new seat buddy, but refuse to give in, open my eyes and commence idol chit chat about nothing in particular that will inevitably prolong my planned nap. Then, I hear this tiny but confident voice say: “It looked better in a ponytail.”
Instantly hysterical with laughter, I pull off my shades and sit up to get a look at this bold traveler. To my right, is quite possibly the cutest little man I have ever met. Excuse me, I say, still smiling in disbelief. “Your hair, it looks better up”, and the best hour of my mini vacation starts here...
We exchange our obligatory hello’s, as polite travelers do, and sit in silence for a few minutes. He tells me his name, and how to spell it. I tell him mine, and let him know that my friends just call me B. He admits that he might forget Brandy, but can remember B. “Can I call you B” Roman asks, huge brown eyes unblinking with anticipation. Sure, I say, I guess that’ll be OK. Big smiles and more silence. Turns out this little home slice is 6 years old, and is flying solo, home from a spring break vacation.
I’m turning off my phone as we are heading down the run way when he asks me, “Can you take pictures on that?” (Sigh. A man after my own heart.) Sure can, I say. “Can we take ours?” Of course, I respond...and hold my breath as I hand my iPhone over to a tiny kid I don’t know. He asks for help to get us both in the shot, short little kid arms are a bummer. Reverse viewfinder on, we take our first photo.
“Can you put your hair back in the pony tail for the next one”, Roman says. He’s totally serious. He’s too cute, I can’t resist. I do it, but I ask questions. When I asked him why I needed a pony tail, he started cracking up...in that little kid sort of way where even if the topic of laughter is not funny...you start laughing too. He makes his hands go all squirly around his head and through squeaks of laughter tells me, “It’s all big, and messy”. OK, fair enough. I didn’t think I boarded this plane looking like an African bush woman, but I do smell strongly of camp fire and have mud on my pants...so perhaps I do. He asks for another photo, a “crazy one this time”.
This might be a good time to mention Green Lantern. Roman never travels alone, he tells me. “It’s always best to travel with someone, and I like to travel with Green Lantern”. Hmm, I say, that sounds like a pretty solid plan to me. “Which Green Lantern is your favorite? The old one, or the new one?” Roman asks. (Quick Brandy, think on your feet... A) Who the hell is Green Lantern and B) How much can I make up before this kid is on to me) Umm, well, I think the classic is hard to beat. But personally, I’m a fan of the new one. Whew, I’m thinking. Passed that test with a cool edge and flying colors! I do look like a rock star after all, how could I go wrong? “You don’t know who he is do you?” Roman asked. Awkward silence, followed by a brief yet informative overview to get me up to speed. “If you don’t have anyone to travel with, you should travel with Green Lantern too. I’m pretty sure if you go to McDonald's you can get one...even if you order big people food”. OK, I say, I will. “Promise?”, says Roman. Promise, I say.
Our conversation flowed easily and the photos kept snapping. 362 of them to be exact.
Roman had been in Idaho, visiting his father and family. He is bringing home a bunch of new DVD’s in his tiny Disney suitcase that he’s been trying to keep a visual on the entire time. He has one brother, Collin, who is also 6 years old. They are not twins. He has one small dog named Soft Paw. What kind of dog? “Brown and black”, Roman says, “with short hair”. Roman’s favorite color is blue, and he is left handed. Roman tells me that he’s “pretty tough, and not afraid to fly alone”. Take off is his favorite part, I learned, as he squealed with excitement as we lifted off the runway.
“Take a picture of me looking scary, I can’t get a good one” I’m ordered.
Roman was satisfied with this one.
We talk about everything from Scooby Doo, sports, school, my job, what I was doing in Idaho (read: rapid fire questions from Roman) to velcro closure Iron Man shoes and zip up Uggs. I’M IN LOVE! If this kid were in the lost and found, I’d be taking him home! We take a break from our question and answer session when Roman asks me to help him make a jet pack for Green Lantern and eat some pretzels.
I know what you’re thinking...but it really ISN’T a straw...it’s a jet pack.
Roman completes a thorough photographic archive of our surroundings, and gets me laughing hysterically again with his persistence to photograph a reluctant flight attendant.
He thought she was tall, really tall, and wanted to take her photo. She politely refused, but smiled anyway. Lucky for Roman, he is a quick draw on the shutter, and was able to get the following shot.
(She was quite a bit taller from Roman’s perspective)
Pleased with his journalistic documentation of others, Roman turned the camera back on himself for another twenty minutes of self portraits.
Before I knew it, nearly an hour had passed. My hangover headache was nowhere to be found, and my cheeks hurt from laughing. I found myself wishing the flight were a little bit longer. As we prepared for landing, one of the flight attendants approached me with some kind of carbon copy document and a pen, stating without emotion, “I need you to fill this out”. When I asked her what it was, she only repeated herself. I reached for the form, totally confused and wondering if she thought I was some kind of creeper trying to steal a kid from the plane. Clearly having seen this type of panic stricken look before and recognizing my worry, she informs me that “most people, when seated by an unaccompanied minor, try to be invisible and never say a word. You really went out of your way to help him out and make his trip enjoyable. I’d like to offer you a 50% discount on your next round trip ticket”. (What?! Roman made MY trip enjoyable, I’m thinking!) Almost offended at the thought of being rewarded for such a great flight, I declined. Twice. Apparently, you do not argue with a flight attendant, no matter the reason. I had just won, twice, in the same hour!
I waited until the plane was completely empty, before helping Roman get his bags and exit the plane. We ended our friendship with an exploding fist bump on the tarmac and went our separate ways. Though, I found myself walking slowing, and looking over my shoulder to make sure Roman was safely near his chaperon flight attendant as they made their way into the airport. Feeling joyful and somehow kind of sad at the end of our encounter, I commit to walking forward trusting the airport staff to reunite my buddy with his awaiting family.
“B”, I hear shouted with exclamation from behind me. I turn to look and see Roman, waving wildly and trying his best to shout over the crowd now separating us. “Don’t forget to travel with Green Lantern”, he says. I wont, you take care Roman...I shout back as I turn away for the last time. 75 minutes and 362 photos later, I am certain, we are BEST friends.
How is a pretty standard one hour flight blog worthy? When it reminds me that I get to choose how I experience everything. I was so close to being one of “those” passengers, the kind that ignores kids (or anyone for that matter) and anticipates landing so I can get the hell out of there. I actually am that passenger. But, on this particular day, I chose something different and it changed something for me. Now, again, for those of you that know me...or are paid to read this blog (Aunt Barb, your check is in the mail, PROMISE!) don't freak out. There are still no babies in my future, ever. I mean, they’re great and all, but no. Besides, I have been blessed with the two best nephews ever (Thank you M and C!) and am anxiously awaiting my first niece (Thank you A!). That’s plenty of kids for me to practice liking! Sorry mom, it’s still a lifetime of grand dogs for you! I think what changed for me, was the ability to recognize a few moments of joy from a place I wouldn’t normally expect it, and to truly be grateful for the experience.
As I promised.