Monday, February 21, 2011


We were supposed to have a traveling weekend. We were supposed to be in Ft. Lauderdale by noon on Saturday to help celebrate the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of two much-loved friends. One of them has just come through two arduous years of cancer treatment and we wanted so much to be there in person to cheer them making it through. We rose at five a.m. and made it to the airport by six-fifteen, checked in and were at our gate by six-thirty.

My husband settled down with our bags and his Kindle and my daughter and I went off to browse the shops and get coffee for me, orange juice for my husband and a bagel for her. We rambled around companionably until my husband texted us and said they should be calling our flight soon and we better start back. When we got there, it was seven-thirty. I saw a long line at our gate, but the board said New Orleans. I waited, wondering how they would clear that flight from the gate in time to board our flight and leave by eight. Finally, at about seven-forty-five I went up to the gate agent and asked whether our flight was still on time and did she know when it would board?

"Where are you going?" she asked. I told her.

"We don't have a flight to Ft. Lauderdale at eight," she said.

"Yes, you do," I insisted. "Look, here is my boarding pass."

She took the printed piece of paper and said, "Oh, eight p.m. This flight is at eight tonight."

I felt as if all the breath left me. I covered my face with my hands and moaned, unable to believe my stupidity. I had been so thrilled to find $200 round trip seats that I hadn't paid enough attention to the hour. I had booked online, requested morning flights in my search, and then assumed that all flights returned were morning flights. But, this being spring break for most of the city's schools, all morning flights were booked, or overbooked as I was soon to learn, and the computer brought up the only flight of the day that still had three seats left.

Our friends' formal banquet was at six to ten that evening, and we were supposed to fly back home at eight the next morning, so unless we could get on a flight that would get us there by six or even seven, it didn't make much sense to travel. The gate agent tried for us, she really did. We went from gate to gate hoping to get bumped up from stand by. We stood with mournful faces as the agent made call after call, trying to help us get to Florida on time. But there was nothing available. In fact, all morning we had been hearing those announcements inviting people to give up their seats for $300 and a first class seat on a flight the next day. One hundred percent of travelers were showing up and stand by was an impossibility. We looked into whether we could fly into another airport, rent a car and drive. But those flights were overbooked, too.

At last, I called our friends and told them we wouldn't be there. And I had to call my cousins too—the ones from Virgina who were also traveling to be there, and the ones in Ft. Lauderdale with whom we had planned to stay overnight. Their disappointment made me want to immediately book a flight for next weekend, which of course I couldn't since we now had to eat the cost of our three nonrefundable tickets. My Florida cousins had soup bubbling on the fire and hot Jamaican patties in the oven, and several other cousins were on their way from West Palm to visit with us for the afternoon. We would miss them all.

The oldest of my three nephews from Virginia is my daughter's age. They are very close. His mother told me he cried when he heard we weren't coming, and that made me cry, too.

My daughter, wise radiant soul, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom, maybe we're just not supposed to fly today. Maybe we just need to find the lemonade"—a reference to what we're supposed to do when life hands us lemons, except in this case I was the one who had handed out the lemons. So we caught a cab home, emotionally spent and tired from rising before dawn and tromping from gate to gate all morning. We put down our bags and climbed under blankets and settled in for a quiet day, drowsy day.

On toward evening, when my daughter and I were lying side by side on my bed watching episodes of Ugly Betty on her laptop, she said, "It's kind of nice to be here with no obligations and no one is calling because no one knows we're here. It's so peaceful." I agreed with her and kissed her head. After another moment she said, "I think this is our lemonade."


  1. Your daughter is a gem.

    But still. My heart dropped for you. I wouldn't have known whether to bawl a good old ugly cry, or scream and stomp and rant.

    You are going to have an incredible week and this is going to be a distant twinge of it wasn't meant to be in no time ... you'll see.
    And that booking on line mistake thing ~ we've done it. My husband travels constantly and is always using points to book for kids etc, it's not hard to make an error . Don't blame yourself okay?

  2. jeeze, angella, whatever you did in raising that daughter, she's got the power, doesnt she? what a gem. i could visualize your defeat at the way or another, we've all had those mornings, lost weekends...but i think her summation is right on; somehow, somebody in your family seems to have a bottomless canteen of lemonade.

  3. deb, my son actually did this same thing last semester with bus schedules when he went to visit a friend at another college, and i had the nerve to admonish him to pay more attention. he was most gracious in not reminding me of that when we talked about my mistake by phone yesterday! this stuff happens, i guess. thank you for the empathy.

    susan t., she is a most amazing child, and i think she came here that way, her heart already made of gold and tenderness and humor and love. talk about blessings.

  4. Your daughter is, indeed, incredibly sweet. But this post just made me cringe. It could have SO happened to anyone, Angella -- and I can just about FEEL what it felt like when it happened. I am so sorry and hope that you can gather with these friends and relatives soon. Love and lemonade to you today!

  5. Dear Elizabeth, thank you. It's snowing again in New York and I am starting to think lemonade and love may be just the thing today! Hugs to you.

  6. Oh my. The disappointment! But hell, I would have done the exact same thing. Honey, once my husband and I lost track of time in Mexico and got to the airport AN ENTIRE DAY LATE! Okay. Maybe that happened two times.
    I love your daughter. I love you, too.
    I hope you get to travel somewhere soon. Lemonade is nice but...

  7. I am so sorry. I hate when these kinds of things happen, but I don't believe coincidence, either. I'm glad you were able to enjoy the lemonade.

  8. your daughter sounds sooo cool. i admire her young wisdom and cool collective

  9. You are not alone! I have done the same thing. We only lost a day of vacation.

    Your daughter is such a sweetheart!

  10. Your daughter is awesome.
    Must have gotten that from her Mother :)

  11. Ms. Moon, getting to the airport a day late from a mexico vacation, not once but twice, sounds like ancient wisdom to me!

    Tess, the lemonade was sweet and cooling.

    Candice, my girl is really growing into herself nicely. thanks!

    Rottonmom, losing a day of vacation is a bummer but the offer of company in my misery is appreciated.

    Maggie May, i know you know about awesome daughters!

  12. I have to agree with everyone, your daughter is beautiful. And your post made me ache.
    Oh brother. I feel bad for you and glad at the same time. You are loved.

  13. Angella, I could feel your disappointment. I was once off by a whole day in Honolulu, slept at the airport. Nothing does more to erase our discomfort than a cheerful, philosophical child. And I do believe things happen for a reason, we just don't always know right away what the reason is.

  14. I don't know you, Angella Lister, but you keep popping up in places I read, and saying things I love. Thank you, thank you.
    Love, love,

  15. Oh boy. I hope you are handling this better than I would be... I'd beat myself up 'till I was dead. And having family be nice about it would make me feel worse. Of course, everyone should strive to handle things differently than I do.

    Your daughter really is a wise, radiant soul. Can I borrow her sometime? :)

  16. Yes. Your daughter is beautiful and wise. Just like her mama.


  17. lemonade is sometimes just the thing one needs!!

    just sent an email to the address i have.

    take care!

  18. I'm sorry this happened. These kinds of things happen to everyone once in a while. There was a time when I sent my mother and my daughter off on a trip one day early. Imagine my surprise when they came home from the train station, to find me relaxing by myself with a glass of wine.

  19. Deidre, and yet the day turned out to be hidden and beautiful. funny how life can give both the sweetness and the ache at the same time.

    Marylinn, i am indeed grateful for my cheerful (a lot of the time but she's still a teenager) philosophical child. thank you.

    Angela C., my namesake. Thanks so much for coming by and leaving a comment. I'll be off to visit you too. Please come again!

    ellen, i did beat myself up bad. It was the fifteenth anniversary of my dad's death on saturday, and i wondered if subconsciously i just wanted to be quiet, hidden and still. i don't know. but thank you for being here, sweet friend. it means so much.

    michelle, thank you for that compliment, but really she is much more beautiful and wise than her mama! a past life reader once told me we had been together many lifetimes and that she had been my mother before. it totally figured, because i learn from her. most people would think this is a strange comment, but i know you understand.

    mouse, lemonade can be delicious. i hope new york is treating you well. i just sent you an email.

    Olga, funny how many of us this has happened to. I feel a little better knowing that. The image of you drinking wine in your quiet house then having your guests return is a very funny one!

  20. I now officially love your daughter! What a wonderful perspective. When I was in high school there was a poster hanging in the health class room that read "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" with big lemons falling into a cartoon guy's head and lemonade coming out of his faucet nose. I never got what that meant exactly but when the meaning finally came to me (I was - and am - too literal sometimes) I totally embraced it. In the situation at the airport I know my mom would say that perhaps we werent' supposed to fly that day and that the universe if protecting us from some bad thing. Who knows? Sometimes we feel like we have no choice but we can always choose how to react and respond. Tell your daughter I think she is amazing.

  21. Aside from how amazing that child of your flesh is, I was blown away by your total lack of self-flagellation! You are one em-powered woman! You guys inspire me!

  22. Gary, i love thinking about that literal little boy you were! thanks for this. I shared your sweet comment with my daughter and she noted that her dad should get credit because he's the one who told her the when-life-hands-you-lemons-make-lemonade thing while we were waiting in the airport!

    Kathleen, some coworkers said today that this mistake would have really stressed their marriage. I feel lucky because my husband took it completely in stride. it's always good to see you here, friend.

  23. Oh Angella, thank goodness for our daughters who help us to keep things in perspective. Your daughter is such a beautiful soul:)

    I am so sorry that you missed your trip. I can feel your disappointment. Sometimes life throws us curve balls.

    Big hugs,

  24. Debra W, we are lucky mothers, aren't we?

  25. Very, very lucky, indeed. I somehow know that our children would really like one another.

  26. Debra W, I somehow think our daughters would discover they are kindred spirits! as we are.

  27. We seem to be a cluster of kindred spirits! I love it:)


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