Deeply slanted rays of the setting sun reflect in from both sides of the airplane as it sinks into the western horizon somewhere behind us. Clouds have covered most of the plains; no landmarks give lay to where we actually are, but I imagine us somewhere over Missouri or Illinois, maybe even further east. The hazy faded blue curve of the sky looks hot, even from this altitude.
The kids have done amazingly well. Right now, Abby is next to me giggling as she pencils in a MadLibs with her version of six-year old naughty words that will make her brothers laugh- most of which are “poop”. Jeffrey, once again, is stepping up to the plate to help manage his brother, and they have been trading off on the laptop playing some sort of polar-bear bowling game. Bowling is very popular these days. Bean, with Jeffrey’s willingness to humor him, is doing surprisingly well, not even considering we’re four hours into his longest plane trip ever. Headphones help immensely, as does his squeezy-ball, absently but constantly clutched in his hand.
This morning, as we waited to see if United was going to actually pull through and get us on a flight, we poked around in the tide pools exposed by the early morning low-tide, and Bean found a crab. He found a snail last night that captivated him for a good solid hour. Where we used to live, there were no snails- too cold- and he laid the length of himself with great care next to the snail in the evening twilight and marveled at the tiny creature’s progress.
While Bean lay in the flower beds watching his gastropod, Jeffrey and Abby were hopping from pier to pier down by the briny San Francisco bay, the water sparkling deep gold and shadow in the setting sun. The fog was rolling over the San Mateo hills in a thick white bank and the airplanes traced their lights across the deepening sky as they approached the airport. It’s one of the most beautiful approaches imaginable, if you like to fly. The fire in the firepit danced in blue and orange patterns, endlessly fascinating, the heat tossed in gusts by the wind off the water. The kids’ laughter floated over the currents, and I leaned back into the striped cushion of the deck chair, more content than I remember being in perhaps years.
The lessons of the last two days are reflected in the last two weeks, months, and years. The best-laid plans are just that- plans. Be flexible. Don’t panic. Often what at first seems like a wreck is actually a path being cleared for something better. Things are going to be hard, and it’s going to hurt. So what. Keep going anyway. Do the best you can. Err on the side of love and forgiveness. Always.
Had we not had our entire flight and return-home plans changed by an airline snafu, none of us would have had that idyllic final night in California. I was able to share with my children, via direct experience and not just my words, exactly why and what I love best about the region that formed me. Clinging desperately to what I had originally wanted would have shut the door on what was actually waiting for us- and I’m pretty sure that can be applied to larger and grander windows of time than I can comprehend or my poor power to perceive.
The trick now is remembering that…