It had been twenty five hours since she last slept. Two days since she last showered. Her change of clothes were somewhere in transit. (She was praying that they make their way home – even with this unexpected, extended slumber party at Gate 32E.) “It’s Christmas. It’s Christmas and I’m here. In the middle of nowhere… on a layover,” she thought to herself.
No sign of holly jolly Santa Clause. Not an inkling of holiday cheer. No stockings by the chimney. Just a peppermint mocha keeping her eyes from shutting before departure and the repetitive melody of “White Christmas” echoing through the halls. No family, friends. No present exchange or lighting the tree.
“Worst Christmas ever,” she grumbled.
By the time she sat herself in the stiff, cold window seat she could barely wait to close her eyes. As she situated her little belongings, she glanced around the plane. A mother and child ushered their way closer to her seat. “Great,” she thought. “How do I always get seated next to the most annoying children on flights?” Like clockwork, the toddler plopped next to her. She shuffled closer to the walls of the plane.
She was an absolute professional on a plane. She knew the exact seat to book to ensure the most comfortable naps and could fight jet lag better than anyone possibly should be able to. (Sadly, even the most skilled traveler can get trapped on a layover from you know where!)
Needless to say, it was game time. Finally. A place to rest her head. Hopefully by the time she awoke, she’d be home. Finally home for the holidays! “Then Christmas can really begin,” she thought.
“I’m so sorry,” whispered the mother with a sincere tone. “I hate doing this to people. But would you mind switching seats with us?”
“Is this lady serious?”
Noticing her less than positive response to her question, the mother lovingly petted her daughter’s head.
“No. I mean… Sure. Sorry. I’m so tired, I can barely think straight,” she grumbled. It was true, the lack of sleep was really getting to her. She started fumbling around with her stuff, groaning internally with this added annoyance. “Am I ever going to catch a break?”
By the time she switched seats, the child had already whipped open a bag of cookies and was comfortably sprawled out in her former seat underneath a blanket. And before she knew it, takeoff had begun. She uncomfortably positioned herself in her new aisle seat. She hated aisle seats. This was royally throwing off her routine sleep plan. Meanwhile, the child’s face couldn’t be closer to the window itself – blocking her view of the night skyline below. As the plane hit altitude, she had dashed aside any and all dreams of sleeping.
“I’ve never seen anyone so excited to have a window seat before,” she chuckled.
“She’s beside herself,” the mother laughed. After a pause, she added. “I’m sorry to ask you leave your seat. We’ve been stranded at the airport for over 24 hours. It’s been tough.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” she lied. “I’ve been here all day too.”
“She’s looking for Santa,” the mother stated.
After another pause, she laughed. “Wait, really?”
“Yeah,” the mother nodded confidently. “I told her she’s a thousand times more likely to see Santa tonight in the air than on the ground like we normally are.”
She appreciated the mother’s creativity.
“She’s at the age where I always wish I could have stayed,” she whispered. “You know… filled with wonder. So curious. So wholeheartedly believing in the fantasies we all gave up a long time ago. She’s so wonderstruck, she believes in all of it. It’s amazing to see. I wish I could escape back to that time.”
She nodded in agreement, glancing through the open cracks of the window. Her daughters’ fingers spread across the glass, eyes glancing towards the blues of the evening sky. She looked so hopeful, eyes glimmering from the city below’s afterglow.
“I’m still filled with wonder. I’m still curious,” she admitted to herself.
“Thank you, again, for giving up your seat.”
“I hope you both have a merry Christmas… or at least something a little more cozy than this airplane!”
She laughed. And in that moment, she glanced back at the daughter, still magnetized by the sky above.
It was in this sight that she felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. She felt a kinship to the wonder across the face of the young girl. She understood her curiosity. For it wasn’t that long ago that she also felt wonderstruck and filled with awe and fascination. Her travels had shown her that astonishment was not something left for children. Her explorations showed her a world filled with mysterious and ancient tales and sights beyond her wildest belief.
Wonder is not something just for a child’s Christmas. No. Wonder is everyday. And what a precious and beautiful thing it was that she was able to know this.