“Well, I ain’t always right but I’ve never been wrong.
Seldom turns out the way it does in a song.
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
- Scarlet Begonias, The Grateful Dead
We recently returned from a week long trip to the East coast. Hubs and I both grew up in Syracuse, NY and are the only ones in our entire family that left the area. We try to get back as much as possible but it ends up being a yearly venture due to time and expense – getting a family of four from Colorado to upstate New York isn’t exactly easy or cheap but it’s incredibly important for our kiddos to know their family so we make sure to visit. I’ll be honest – I was really dreading the trip this year. It has been one horror story after another with people behaving badly on planes and I just KNEW, with our luck, we would be stuck dealing with an airplane crazy. So, I packed our bags, added lots of Dramamine (if the peeps went nutso, at least we’d be too doped up to notice) and set out on a literal wing and a prayer that we could get from one side of the country to the other without incident.
Amazingly, it went great! We didn’t have any troubles getting out of Colorado and our flights through Chicago were smooth and incident free. I was thrilled and our trip was incredible. We spent lots of time with family, lounged on the beach, played in the water and generally relaxed. We were even able to travel to our old college town of Albany, NY to stay with my sister and her family. As an added bonus, a very dear friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in almost 4 years was able to drive up from Rhode Island and meet us for a day. I felt completely blessed as we headed home on Friday and thankful for such a smooth visit filled with laughs and wonderful memories.
Of course – then the proverbial poo hit the fan. We overshot our highway exit and ended up detoured by 30 minutes PRIOR to reaching the airport and dropping our rental car. Then, as soon as we checked in and arrived they delayed the flight. For good measure – they even grounded all planes at O’hare (our mid point layover) and we couldn’t get out until 7:30pm – just a short 3 hours later. As soon as the plane took off, the pilot came on and mumbled something about “vector flight” and this being “much longer then anticipated.” Four hours later, at 11:30pm, we arrived in Chicago – 10 minutes AFTER our connection (the last of the night) left the gate.
At this point I had taken 2 Dramamine (they kept talking about thunderstorms, bumpy flights and I ALWAYS get air sick) and could have played lead in The Walking Dead. We trudged to the airport Hilton and were promptly told it was sold out. Despite my exhausted requests (and offers to pay for the most expensive room they had) we were shut out and handed 2 pieces of paper with over 50 potential hotels to call and check for availability. I plopped myself on the floor and stared at the papers unsure where to even begin. Then a young women nearby introduced herself as Chloe and asked if we wanted to share a cab with her downtown – some 40 minutes away – to find lodging. I nodded numbly while we gathered up our bags and headed outside. In the meantime, she took over. She got online and booked two rooms at a hotel my husband recommended (he travels to Chicago for work occasionally) and we all tumbled into cab. Chloe sat next to my daughter, let her play with her phone (mine was dead), offered my husband a sandwich (ironically it was vegetarian and he doesn’t eat meat) and generally kept everyone entertained while I struggled to keep my eyes open and head up. We arrived at the hotel and went inside to check in. At this point it was well after 1am and we were worked. The kids were amazing – real troopers – but I was a hopeless cause. Chloe then asked the front desk to check us in first since we had the kiddos and gave us hugs as we walked up to our room. I collapsed in bed and was blissfully asleep in just a few moments. The next morning, I asked my husband if I had imagined the whole thing with the Chloe because it was just so surreal. He said no.
Now, I’m not a particularly spiritual person but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Several years ago, my father in law (Ed) passed away from cancer. My mother-in-law often talks about a seagull that hangs around the shore near the lake house. She thinks it’s Ed letting her know he is near by and thinking of her. I think it’s sweet – but Ed the Seagull never showed up at the beach the week we were there. I was a bit bummed (we came all the way from Colorado!) but didn’t really think much about it.
Right before we left for the airport on Friday, we stopped to say goodbye to my MIL. She had recently discovered a big stash of coins that Ed had been saving for years and she wanted the kids to fill up a bag so they could have some spending money. Harlyn did her best impersonation of Scrooge McDuck and excitedly dumped coins into the bag until it was almost too heavy to lift up. We stopped by the grocery store and cashed in before heading to the airport and were excited to have an extra couple hundred bucks (!!!) for our trip home. I promised the kids a portion and said we would put the rest towards our next trip to NY.
Little did we know that we’d be using that money so quickly. Not only did it pay for our hotel room that night (the airlines don’t cover weather delays) it also provided us with cash to have a great little family day in Chicago. Since we couldn’t fly out until 6pm Saturday night we were able to take in the sights of downtown, go to the museum and wander around the wharf. After we got home, hubs and I talked about the stay in Chicago, and our Good Samaritan Chloe. We looked at each other – and I smiled. Maybe I am crazy, but I truly believe the entire Chicago experience was a message from Ed. I like to think he knew we were going to have a rough go heading home on Friday, and wanted to make it a little easier for us. He sent the money through my MIL, the much needed sanity through Chloe and the fabulous Chicago day? Just a sign to let us know that he is here – in his own way – watching over us and sharing in our life.
Overall, the entire experience really reaffirmed my commitment to the importance of living a kind life. For the entire trip, we were showered with kindness – from pleasant, happy travel companions (on both the easy and not so easy legs of our flight) to non stop caring from our family and friends. They lodged us, fed us and drove long distances to spend time with us. What could have easily been a vacation destroyer instead turned into this really amazing, unexpected experience of truly being treated with caring kindness from a completely random stranger. I set out on this journey with the intention of sharing my kindness with the world. Little did I know that I would also be on the receiving end of much kindness myself.
Thank you Chloe (and Ed – I know you are out there) – my gratitude knows no bounds and my cup runneth over.