We’ve all heard the phrase, “You’ll be able to laugh about this someday,” usually in conjunction with “Laughing is better than crying.”
That brings me to “The Saga of Moo-Moo,” a family story that still makes my oldest son steam, my youngest son squirm, and the rest of us shake our heads in bemusement. In honor of the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death, the recent passing of the full moon, and an expensive visit from the travel ghosts/gods, Moo-Moo’s story brings a welcome dose of humor.
Morbid humor, perhaps. But humor nonetheless, with a twist for an ending.
Flashback to five years ago today: The entire family — all six of us — is flying home from my dad’s memorial service. It was a special time, the only opportunity all nine of my parents’ grandchildren have been together, and an exhausting (as you might expect) experience.
At this point, Nicholas is 14, Kate is 10, and the twins are 9. All handled themselves very well throughout the trip, so I should have expected the wheels to fall off at some point. And they did.••••••
I’ve nicknamed my twins Hansel and Gretel, because everywhere they go they leave a trail. I realize it’s genetic. They get this trait from their father, and I got it from my father, along with his humor. Ben and Nicholas get their sense of humor from me as well.
What follows next wasn’t funny, at least at the time.
We got off the plane at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and, as usual, did the inventory a little too late. Nicholas realized he’d left his sketchbook on the plane and, more important/catastrophic, a small stuffed red cow he had named “Moo-Moo.”
“Moo-Moo” was one of those last throwbacks to childhood bedtime, the stuffed animal/blanket that you’re never really ready to part with despite your desire to be an adult. In Nicholas’ hormonal teenage eyes, he couldn’t deal with the loss of his grandfather and “Moo-Moo,” too.
So we went to the ticket counter and pled our case to the Southwest attendant, a very nice woman who promised to do whatever she could to help. (Fortunately, this was five years ago, and it was not captured for A&E’s reality show, “Airline.”) She sent someone to look for the stuffed animal.
We waited, and waited. The plane’s takeoff was delayed. Nicholas quickly sketched a “Lost” poster for “Moo-Moo.” The very nice woman patiently took the “Unchecked Article Loss Report.”
At some point in this process, “Moo-Moo” mysteriously appeared. As it turns out, Ben had picked it up and hidden it as we got off the plane. Only after the plane was stopped from taking off did the then 9-year-old realize the joke had gone horribly awry.
We slinked out of the airport, making profuse apologies to the nice (though understandably pissed off) attendant and pointing visual daggers at our youngest son. It was a long, quiet ride home. I thought, in some way, it was my father’s ghost messing with me.
Moo-Moo’s fate would not be mentioned again — until we received a mysterious box almost four years later.••••••
The box arrived at our home on April 8, 2011 with Nicholas’ sketchbook, the “Lost” poster, the original incident report, and an unsigned letter. Cue the “Dragnet” theme.
“This book was found at BWI Airport by one of my cleaners a few years ago — I put it in a box intending to mail it to you. The address was in the article loss report but the box was inadvertently placed in our storage area. I saw the box and realized it was never mailed — sorry for the mistake. The book has tremendous sentimental value… Thanks.”
Then the P.S.: “I cannot vouch for the cow. Seems like it was never located.”
Jill and I had to smile and shake our heads. We called Nicholas, who was glad to hear about the sketchbook but still seemed to have PTSD from the experience. Later, we told Ben, who remembered the cold ride home and the withering looks from his older brother on that sad night 44 months before.
“Stop! I don’t want to hear about it,” he said.
And then he muttered: “I still have dreams about that cow.”
I thought about the Moo-Moo story again after an almost comical anniversary weekend of travel mishaps. Kate missed her train from North Carolina and took a bus. Nicholas missed a plane from Boston due to weather and had to take another plane the next day to Virginia. Emma left her pillow and blanket at home when she went to a dance camp.
That was all within the space of 72 hours.
Ben was spared somewhat in this travel saga, although being on the road means he has more than his share of stories to tell. And things to leave behind, I’m sure…
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