Neck-a-lace

I mentioned in a previous post that both of my daughters like to play with the necklace I wear every day. If I am not wearing it, my oldest daughter E asks, “Mama, where is your neck-a-lace?”

From time to time, she also asks after her necklace. Every time she asks, it takes me back to our flight last summer. I flew by myself from the U.S. to The Netherlands with a three month old and a not quite three year old. It was one of the most gruelling days of my life. I feel like I will always be residually tired from that three hour drive to the airport followed by an over two hour delay and then eight hour flight.

Thank God my mom was there with me for the worst of it. She rented a minivan and drove us and all of our stuff to the airport then waited with us in the check-in area for something like four hours.

The necklace E asks about from time to time was made for her in preparation for that trip and holds a place of honor at eye level in our medicine cabinet where I can see it daily. Her necklace is actually a silver chain necklace with a little Oreo cookie charm and a dog tag. It is literally a tag meant for a dog. The day before my flight, we went to a Petco and had a silver dog tag engraved with our flight number, my mom and husband’s phone numbers, and the words,”Flying with my mama”.

We were so terrified of losing E. My mom and I both had nightmares about it prior to the flight. I was particularly nervous about her running off while I nursed my three month old daughter. My mom and I also taped the same info into all of the clothes E wore that day and the inside of her shoes.

At check-in, I was already exhausted from loading and unloading all of our stuff along with a car ride up that included E missing her nap. I’d had little sleep and was a nervous wreck. Then they announced a flight delay. I broke down crying. I told my mom I would pay for whatever she needed so she could stay with us until the flight boarded. This meant parking fees, an extra day’s car rental and potentially a hotel stay. I didn’t care how much it cost. I did not want to be left alone at the airport with two little kids and an indefinite delay.

I remember that the baby needed nursing and that both girls really needed a nap. E kept trying to run off. She was in that wild, nearly hysterical phase of tiredness. Through tears, I begged her not to run off anymore because it would break my heart if she got lost. My mom took E in her arms and rocked her to sleep. For hours, she sang her lullabies then rocked E while she slept. I sat next to her in a set of four moulded plastic chairs. I wore a nursing cover over the baby while she drank then dropped off to sleep. We were surrounded by backpacks, a stroller, and other baby stuff.

As my mom sang lullabies to E, I bawled. I tried to control it to save face as the travellers stream by. But there is something so sweet and primally soothing about hearing your own mother sing the lullabies you forgot you’d heard all those times and all those years ago. It unlocks something deep inside. And when the singing is done in an international check-in terminal for a granddaughter that really needs a nap, the mother of that sleeping child (whom also needs a nap) is overwhelmed with relief, gratitude and mostly jealousy that she cannot be the one being rocked to sleep.

I remember all of this each time I look at E’s neck-a-lace.

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