Well, I did more or less promise a blog post about this tonight. Honestly, though, I am kind of overwhelmed. I’ll give it a shot.
We got hooked up with this gig through A Kid Again, a local organization that provides days out for kids with chronic or life-threatening conditions. We’ve gotten a lot of letters and e-mails from A Kid Again, but we’ve never participated before, either because we couldn’t work it out with our schedule, or because the activity wasn’t really right for the kids at this stage. (I’m sure they would have a grand time at a Cavs game, but we’d be out so late that Paul might in fact die of it, and I am not yet up to taking both of them by myself. And really they might only have fun for the first ten minutes and start whining and I might die of that.)
But a few weeks ago I got an e-mail saying there were three family slots left on a Fantasy Flight to the North Pole in Cleveland, and the first three people to speak up got ’em. I took thirty seconds to look at my Google calendar and said, “Yes, please!!” This, they are just the right age for. And we got one of the slots.
So today we drove up to Cleveland and were greeted curbside by the program coordinator and our guide for the day. They swooped us over to the ticket counter and helped us pick up our boarding passes. “MOM!” Levi said on the way, “We forgot all our bags!!!!” (I assured him it was a short trip and we had everything we needed. I will say it’s the least stressed I’ve EVER been boarding a plane. Maybe I should make a practice of flying without luggage.)
Our guide for the day, the lovely Lia, sat by Elias on the plane and endured nonsensical conversation, largely about what he was going to name his new stuffed cow and how soon the plane was going to take off. (She may have been slightly taken aback when he complained bitterly that the cow didn’t have an udder. “Farm kid,” I said.)
The flight was around 45 minutes and included a hot meal, which was an entirely new experience for me. (Is this solely a first-class thing, usually?) Elias focused mostly on the cookies, and was beside himself with joy when a flight attendant appeared with a massive selection of chips for his delectation.
About five minutes to landing, the captain reminded us that Santa does not allow anyone to know the exact location of his workshop, so we all had to close the window shades. And no peeking. Landing included a bit of a bump and a huge cheer (just a little louder than the one that accompanied takeoff).
We disembarked down a jetway hanging with icicles and were greeted by Rudolph and minions (random but quite exciting).
And the party just rolled on from there. Lots of snacks everywhere, Lia to grab us whatever we wanted and tell us when to get in line for what, and games and activities all over the place. Levi was a little obsessed with the floor bowling. I don’t know if that princess with him is anyone specific, but she was hanging out with Elsa and Anna from Frozen. My kids were more excited about seeing whether they could pull Chomps’ tail (I talked them out of it) but there were a lot of little girls having vapors over the princesses.
Every time Levi wandered off, I found him flirting with a tableful of female elves. Still, the high point of the evening was meeting Santa Claus. Check out the beard. We’re talking Miracle on 34th Street level Santa. He was fantastic. He received Levi’s handwritten, hand-delivered letter with all of the gravitas and twinkle you could possibly wish for in a mythical figure.
Can I just pause here to say that, already, this is way over the top? I mean, who gets to do this? They put us on a flight. A real one. We had to go through security and everything. (I forgot and took a water bottle in my bag and they had to go through everything. Whoops.) I don’t really want to think about what jet fuel costs, even for a short trip. And the volunteer hours that went into turning a hangar into Santa’s workshop had to be crazy. They turned a gate counter into a train, for Pete’s sake.
Then they dragged out the bags. See that bag next to Elias in the Mrs. Claus picture? The one that’s almost as tall as he is? Yeah. They each got one, crammed with fishing paraphernalia and other delights for a young boy’s heart. Levi got a 3D molding machine and insists he’s going to make a Minecraft army with it. I have no idea what he’s talking about. Is this indeed what it is for? I guess I’ll find out when I read the directions. There was even a family bag with some amazing stuff for everybody to share.
Over the top no longer seems quite adequate as a descriptor.
We took off when Elias was showing signs of imminent meltdown, but we were sternly warned by one of the elves’ mothers that we had to stop under the arch for our fairy dust. (This is how Santa gets you home without having to take the plane up again. Fairy dust gets you right back to your home airport. I would like to travel like this always, please.)
We got home half an hour past bedtime, but Paul got Levi on his vest and other treatments lickety-split. I confess I would have been ready to skip it, just this once, but Paul does not do that. This may be the only area in which he is more of a hard case than I am. (And thank goodness he is.) Now the boys are dead to the world, stuffed cows in hands and elf hats on heads.
I kind of don’t even know what to say about this. Honestly, I feel vaguely guilty that we got to do it when not everyone does, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the boys. They had such a good time. Levi in particular was nearly bursting out of his skin.
All of this was put together in large part by United and United employees, but also (as far as I can tell) sponsored by Progressive, the Browns, whoever is in charge of the minions, college students, a Girl Scout troop, and heaven only knows who else.
May I just say to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for loving on my boys, whom you do not know, for a few hours, just because you wanted to be kind. Thank you for loving on all of the other families, and for making it smooth for the ones with mobility issues, and low-pressure for everyone, and joyous and easy and so much fun. I hope each one of you has some time this Christmas that is half as fantastic as you made this night for us.