Wil was sandwiched between Katherine and Elizabeth in a 3-seater row. At 10 years old, Wil had made this flight to visit his grandparents nearly as many years. Though nestled between his sisters, Wil reveled in his independent position across the aisle from me.
The first two hours of the flight were without incident. Then a high-pitched yipping sliced through the last hour of our flight. Wil immediately clamped his hands over his ears and folded himself in half (a hypotonic trick), his chest directly on top of his legs. A tiny dog, seated in the row directly in front of him, would not let up its rant. Elizabeth snapped her head in my direction. I read her mind instantly: Where were Wil’s noise-cancelling headphones? I thrust my finger at Wil’s carry-on bag in front of his seat. She grabbed the headphones and placed them over Wil’s ears.
Have you ever watched a movie barely noticing a curse word, but when you watched the same movie with your kids you were shocked at how many curse words there were? That is how loud noises are when I’m with Wil. I know they can pop up unexpectedly, even in familiar situations, and I need to have noise-cancelling headphones at the ready.
Wil was in such an agitated state from the tiny dog’s yipping, that the headphones didn’t calm him. I pulled him up from his seat and sat him on my lap across the aisle. While soothing Wil, I was startled by a flight attendant standing near my seat. She stood in such a way that she blocked Wil’s view from the yipping dog. She handed Wil a packet of pretzels, then discreetly showed me a snack size Milky Way bar. I nodded my head.
“Here, Wil,” she said, handing him the Milky Way bar. “This is what you do. Take a bite of pretzel, then a bite of chocolate. It’s the best.”
I couldn’t tell if Wil was marveled by this idea or by seeing a new, friendly face. Either way, he was blissfully distracted from the yippy background noise. Marcie introduced herself then asked Wil how old he was, his teacher’s name and what he liked to do for fun. Wil made a few sideways glances past Marcie toward the yippy dog, then she’d draw back his attention by asking another question.
When the pilot announced our plane’s descent, I knew Wil would need to return to his seat. Marcie smoothed the way with two extra Milky Ways (“for later,” she said with a wink). She also gave Katherine and Elizabeth a few Milky Way bars for being the best sisters.
Wil made his way back to his seat, nestled again between his best sisters, all richer for their Milky Way bars and for knowing Marcie.
To this day, 3 years later, I could swear I saw a hazy band of light following Marcie as she made her way down the aisle.