I’d noticed them back in the terminal—harried middle-aged dad and adorable, chubby, little toddler.
And here they were next to me in the aisle.
Look—here’s your bunny.
Bun-ny, bun-ny, Daddy was saying in a hushed and panicked, sing-song voice, with baby wailing and doubled backward over his left arm.
Enough! Daddy growled.
I told you. Enough!
That’s when baby flipped himself over and reached his arms out to me.
And Daddy said, Okay. So go with her already!
And handed him to me.
So there I was on the Philly to Frankfurt flight, suddenly jostling a baby and a bunny.
We settled in quite nicely together—little guy eyeballing me intently as I performed my ritualistic crossing of myself at the start of the flight.
Once we were airborne, Daddy came by with the sippy cup and an insulated bag.
You’re gonna need these, he said, and disappeared before I’d even registered his appearance.
The bag had some Goldfish crackers and grapes and a couple of storybooks.
I read him the books and told him all about myself while he checked out my earrings and necklace.
We watched Dora the Explorer on the video screen and played with all of the buttons and belts.
He seemed to enjoy all the nursery rhymes I told him and lit up when we played pat-a-cake.
Eventually, he napped with his cheek pressed firmly into my neck.
Mommy and baby are so sweet together, an attendant said as she passed.
Oh, he’s not my baby, I whispered at her.
You’re the auntie! She said, as she smiled at me.
No, no, he just reached for me, I told her, and his father handed him over. But it’s okay ‘cause we seem to have bonded quite nicely and he’s loving his nap in the air.
What? She exclaimed, looking confused. You mean that you don’t even know him?
Shhh. It’s okay, I reassured her. And she went on her way, handing out drinks down the aisle.
When the next flight attendant came by, he gave me a little, plush bear—black, and sporting a bowtie.
His dad said he’ll want this, he said, and then also moved on down the aisle.
When my little guy awoke, he had a few snacks and tried out the seat right beside me. I buckled him in and sang him a song and turned on that video screen.
A third attendant came by at that point, who’d obviously heard all about us.
By the way, if you don’t mind my asking–where is his daddy sitting? I asked him.
He’s just over there, he said as he pointed, and I leaned forward and looked back that way.
And there was Daddy, off to the left and one row back, legs stretched out in the aisle.
He looked pretty darned comfy and that was okay; it was his accessories that brought me up short: Dr. Dre headphones and a bottle of beer that was touching his lips as he laughed.
I chuckled then, too, and shrugged my shoulders as I kicked back a swig from the sippy cup.