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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Petersen


Last Thursday I did something I’ve been dreading for a while now—I flew with Ellie all by myself.  Michael had an aerospace competition in Florida this week and I was itchin’ to do my own fun thing. Spirit Airlines has a hub in Denver and in Dallas, and the low round-trip fair was well worth a week-long visit to see my Texas peeps. So I booked a ticket with flight’s ghettoest airline and hauled my wiggly 10-month-old and overloaded diaper bag stuffed with a week’s worth of clothes (because I’m too cheap to add a $100 carryon) through the sea of chaotic travelers at the Denver airport.

After successfully weaving my way through the security line with my stroller/carseat combo, I made my way down and up multiple elevators to my gate and unstrapped Ellie so she could roam free for a bit before our short flight. I sat in front of the large window while she pulled up and smeared her handprints all over it and waited to board the plane. The people sitting in front of me were all on their devices, and I started to feel really down that I was going to be flying without Michael. Before I could stop her, Ellie spider-crawled over to a man across from me who had an earpiece in and a seeing-eye stick collapsed at his side. She determinedly grabbed his stick and started beating it against the side of his chair. Mortified, I grabbed her and started apologizing. The kind man assured me that it was no problem, that his 12-year-old son still found the stick fascinating, and that she was welcome to play with it. Time passed quickly as I carried on a conversation with the friendly stranger. He told me that he used to have vision so good that he could see the detail of individual drops of rain as they fell from the sky before he started going blind when he was only eight. We talked about work and he let me listen to the voice on his phone that helped him navigate through his text messages and apps. He welcomed me to Colorado and told me I was going to love the sunshine. His name was Rick, and even though his flight to Baltimore was delayed indefinitely, he was very kind.

I was among some of the first passengers to board when the time came, and I was underwhelmed with the seemingly narrower than average aisles and ultra-cramped seats that accompany a $97 roundtrip ticket price through Spirit. I was extra bummed that I’d been given a window seat instead of an aisle—(again, too cheap to pay money to pick my own.) I was already feeling claustrophobic as I buckled my seatbelt while Ellie stood on my lap, wrapping on the window and squealing loudly.

Now let me tell you a thing about my baby. She will. not. sit. still. She will not simply, lie in my arms, drink her bottle and fall asleep. She will not cuddle me, especially when there are a lot of other people around. She babbles constantly, which is both adorable and a little bit embarrassing. She’s far too interested in seeing and doing than being a chill babe. So an hour and a half flight was a perfect baby-step in getting my feet wet on solo-parent traveling.

Of course, I hoped that nobody would sit next to me. But it quickly became very apparent that I wasn’t the only one that liked a cheap flight when I saw one.  A middle-aged woman sat in the aisle seat on my row. “Looks like you’re unlucky,” I told her, “You’re stuck on a row with the baby.”

“Oh! I love the little ones.” She told me. She offered to put my bag in the overhead bin for me and started chatting with my baby in seasoned-grandma fashion. I was grateful that she, at least, seemed nice. I clung on to hope that the middle seat would stay empty. But soon a single man, late twenties/early thirties made his way to our row and got situated right next to me. Ellie was going crazy standing up and down on, slapping the window, pointing to everyone and yelling, “Dat! Dat! Dat” (Her variation of, “What’s that?”) I looked apologetically at the man and he asked me her name. Then he kept saying, “Hi, Ellie! Hi, Ellie!” and the two of them made fast friends. I quickly learned about my seat-mates. His name was Solomon and he was from Ethiopia. He’d been living in the Denver area for about a year. He was going to Dallas for his girlfriend’s sister’s wedding. Her name was Deb. She was a mom of two, grandma of one. A Denver native but recent Texas implant. He played patty-cake with Ellie, and when she leaned over to him with her hands outstretched he didn’t hesitate to let her into his lap. He and Deb both took turns with her. Because as I mentioned before, she’s a baby on the go and one lap just ain’t gonna cut it. Plus when I tried to contain her to my lap she pulled my hair and scratched my neck a lot. “Ok, come here,” Deb would say, “Your mama needs a break!” And goodness, my neck and I were both grateful to have one. Deb even tried to buy me a soda when the cart came by.

I know that this might not seem like a big deal—friendly people on a flight. But it meant so much to me. They easily could have put their headphones on and ignored me, but instead they spent their time making my life easier.

I’m kind of a gloom and doom person. I don’t mean to be, it’s just that my brain just always goes to the worst-case scenario. I get overwhelmed with all the hate I see from new’s stories and negative posts on social media. But I really do believe that for every mean person, there’s a hundred nice ones. For every hate crime, there’s a hundred good deeds. And for every grumpy stranger, there’s at least two nice fellow passengers out there, willing to play patty-cake with your baby.

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” -Anne Frank

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