Setting: Curbside at SFO (San Francisco International Airport).
Time of day: Early afternoon on a Friday; prime time for high-roller weekend travellers.
Characters: The self, the beloved, the bairn. Also: bystanders in line for curbside check-in.
Motivation: Transfer all the paraphernalia out of the vehicle and into some kind of condition which the beloved can shepherd whilst the self skedaddles the vehicle over to long-term parking for the duration of a long weekend in L.A. to visit friends & family. We are close to on time, but cannot afford much in the way of delay.
Relevant backstory: The first time we traveled by airplane — to visit this same berg on the occasion of a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party — we were rookie parents, raggedy with the stress and sorrow of my nephew’s cancer battle. We had precious little experience navigating the wide world with our three-month-old lil’ monkey, and in the airport we felt phenomenally on display as The Lesbian Family. Which, I believe, we were (both a lesbian family and on display). At the security gate we were an old-school slapstick comedy duo, fumbling every object we touched, tangling not just each other, but parts of the security team up in the retracting baby stroller as we feebly attempted to compact it and ram it into the X-ray machine. We did everything this side of placing the infant child on the conveyer belt.
We might have chuckled at all this, except that all the while we were being glared at by some forty to sixty irritated, increasingly late fellow travelers (and, alas, I do not mean “fellow traveler” in the kindly sense of the word; merely in the descriptive sense). Okay, not all forty to sixty of them glared. Just ten or fifteen glared; twenty or thirty of them simply stared. Let us just say it is hard enough being a Hallmark card nuclear family at the security gate of an airport, all physically attractive, white, well-accoutremented, and familiar with the process of shepherding both brood and matériel through the security spanking line. The rest of us will be forgiven if we get a little touchy at the umpteenth long look. Suffice to say that air travel, now with two bairn, felt like a daunting undertaking.
Little pleasure: Goes a little something like this. Upon pulling up to the curb, the beloved and I bolt out of the vehicle and minister to it with the speed and efficiency of a NASCAR pit crew.
• bag #1: removed and stacked neatly along curb!
• bag #2: ditto!
• gorgeous adorable totally well-behaved toddler: plucked from car seat and stacked alongside bags! (note: she is informed, lovingly, to sit tight and not move, and god love her she complies, people! a toddler complies! at the airport!)
• kid car seat: effortlessly removed and stacked alongside adorable toddler! no parts tangled up hopelessly in the seatbelt this time! nosirree!
• gorgeous adorable totally sleeping infant: lifted, intact inside baby seat, and parked alongside other matériel! remains sleeping! no crying or snorting! nosirree!
• baby seat base: miraculously and gracefully unhooked from car, no snags, no cursing under the breath! parked alongside placidly sleeping babe!
• totally boss, multi-use, it-does-everything-shy-of-fixing-you-a-latte stroller, removed from the back of the vehicle in its flattened state, and DEPLOYED EFFORTLESSLY on the curb, right in front of a Highly Conventional heterosexual couple who look to hail from one the swanker of the metropolitan area’s suburbs (him: navy blue sport jacket over polo shirt, fancy watch, etc.; her: foundation make-up and suspiciously blonde hair, bauble-ey rings, regulation length & color fingernails, etc.). They appear to be, on the one hand, no strangers to air travel, and on the other, unaccustomed to seeing Lesbians close-up & personal. Especially in this full-blown, familial state.
As we pulled up, I imagined that we would be providing those waiting in the curbside check-in line with some kind of a diversion, what with waiting in line being such a dull undertaking. And as we decant the car, I get that sense that we are, indeed, being watched. When I get to the point of springing the boss stroller into position, I can’t help but notice that the female half of the haute suburban hetero couple is visibly amazed. It is an impressive rig. As a life-long emissary for the Lesbian Nation, I see an opening. (Only a really bad day will keep me from making yet another diplomatic inroad when the opportunity avails itself.)
I drop my sunglasses down my nose and lean over to her. “Pretty spiffy stroller, eh?”
“Y- y- yeah,” she sputters. I can’t tell whether the sputtering is due to breathlessness over the stroller (which would be understandable), or my debonair self (I tend to have that effect on the ladies), or simply the shock of being addressed by a woman whom, moments earlier, she thought was a man cursed with a slightly womanish-looking fanny. Perhaps all of the above.
“Look, you can even spin it like it’s Ginger Rogers!” I commence to cantilever over the stroller and give it a Fred Astaire whirl, and it spins obediently. I resist the urge to squat down and point out more of its myriad convenient features. My first job, at sixteen, was as a clerk in a backpacking store, and I have never lost the love of well-designed gear. Nor, does it seem, have I shaken the impulse to point out sundry design features to interested onlookers. But we are in a hurry.
The haute suburban woman is smiling slightly, amazed either at the stroller’s capacity to do a 360-degree turn on a dime, or at my willingness to demonstrate it. Or at the beauty of our children. Perhaps they’ve been talking about having kids soon. Perhaps they want to, and haven’t been able to thus far. Perhaps all of the above. You don’t know about people. I only glanced at her for a moment or two, but I thought I detected a hint of longing as she eyed the kids.
I flash a smile and pop my eyebrows up and down in a wordless goodbye, and then return to the NASCAR pit crew speed-decanting task. I ask the lil’ monkey whether I can put her in her “sneaky little fort,” which is what we call her lower berth in the stroller. She consents, dreamily proving that in a clutch, she is most certainly her Baba’s daughter.
I park the still-sleeping infant dauphin into his upper berth on the stroller, and plug the diaper bag and the beloved’s purse in their available spots on the rig. The beloved appears at my side, I plant a smooch on her beautiful face, and we corroborate our rendezvous at the gate.
As I steer away from the curb toward the long-term parking lot, I think to myself, “Happy travels to all, and to all a good flight!”