About a year ago, I realized that The Wife and I had our 40th anniversary coming up August 14, 2011, and I didn't particularly look forward to commemorating by posting the customary before and after pictures in the newspaper,so I had to come up with a really good way to celebrate.
The Wife and I didn't go to Paris for our honeymoon, we went to Montreal (I took along $300 to finance the trip and came back with money left in the wallet.) Three years later we did hit Paris for a few days while we were doing the Grand Tour, just before I entered law school. It had never worked out for us both to return, although I took Son Number Two to Paris about 10 years ago for violin master classes. So, I got the idea that we would spend three weeks in an apartment in Paris for our 40th anniversary.
Then it turned out that Son Number Two's string quartet, JACK, was playing in concert in Reims, just 45 minutes northeast of Paris by fast rail, on July 14 - 18, and we really could not miss that, and Brother Number Four (who is now 52 years old -- that is more of a shock than my own age) has lived in Vienna for seven years without a visit from us, so we had to go see him while we were in Europe. All of those things have now been done, and The Wife and I are now happily settled into our beautiful apartment, enjoying the pleasures of Paris -- indisputably the Number One City in the World.
To catch you up on our adventures, we left Champaign on July 12, driving to O'Hare Airport where we would catch a 5:00 o'clock British Airways flight to London. Everything went fine. Traffic, no problem. Parking, no problem. Shuttle to terminal 5, no problem. Security, no problem. Getting on the plane, no problem. Seats, no problem. I had scored seats just behind the bulkhead separating the business class from the peasants, which gave us more leg room. Seat mate(s) -- problem.
We were in a three-seat section, the window seat being occupied by a young woman (23, and from Macedonia, we later found out) and her infant son, big for his age, but under two years old (or so she claimed) so he could ride for free sitting on her lap. The plane had not yet left the gate when he began to cry -- not whimper -- cry. Her response, quite sensibly enough, was to tell him to "stop that" and try to get him to drink his bottle of milk. He would take a few gulps and then start crying again. This went on continuously all the way across the Atlantic -- thankfully only an eight hour trip, not the six weeks it took my ancestors to come the other way.
I felt sorry for the mother, her child, for us and the other passengers. I have never seen a mother as ill equipped for her job. She had brought absolutely nothing to entertain or distract the baby, other than the bottle. She had brought no books, no toys, no tapes -- nothing. All night long, as he cried, she would say, "Stop that. Shut up." She said she had given him Benadryl before the trip, and gave him another dose on the plane, apparently to try to drug him to sleep. He did sleep for maybe an hour of the flight, but otherwise he was crying.
I was not angry with the mother. I think she was just ignorant about how to travel with the child. How could I be angry with the child? He was obviously miserable, upset and didn't want to be there as badly as we didn't want him there. The mother had lived in the United States for three years, she had no relatives here, other than her husband, who was also from Macedonia, but who was not making the trip. I think she never had anyone to teach her parenting skills, and although some mothers can pick up parenting naturally, some need to be taught.
Joel Stein has a funny article in last week's Time about traveling with children - his solution is to put them in their own compartment in the back, and to segregate everyone else by their own demographic. I don't like that idea. I don't relish the thought of being in a compartment with a bunch of old overweight white guys. I think the belching and the farting might be worse than hearing a baby cry all night long.