Zoe and I boarded the small Dash 8- 200 that would take us out of the tiny college town where we had spent the past five days. Walking through the bitter cold wind from the gate exit, the noise from the engine scared Zoe and I had to get down on my knees and comfort her as I awkwardly twisted the top part of my carry-on off the small roller suitcase that Zoe still thinks is hers. "We are almost there, Zoe is such a good girl, let's get on the plane", I said and we walked hand in hand to the five-step entrance. Entering, Zoe looked at the stewardess and then as we walked down the aisle asked me "get something?" I didn't understand at first and we had to swap seats because we were not seated together, not even on the same row, but at last I got it. She was so used to get something from the stewardess, a sticker book, a little stuffed animal or a car, that she now expected it on each plane ride. But US airlines don't do that and I had to explain that to her as she tightened her belt. I had a sticker book that she then was happy enough to play with until takeoff. Then, completely unprompted, as the engine fired up, she put her head on my lap and before we reached the clouds she was fast asleep. I definitely had a pro-flier with me.
Our US journey was transitioning to the second part of the three. The first part had been successful in every way: I had been visiting a friend and colleague for some potential collaboration and to give a talk in one of his graduate courses. He had generously offered that we stay at his house and that the nanny of his twin toddlers could look after Zoe for the two full work days that I needed. Zoe immediately liked the twins, as well as the older daughter, so although she cried for one minute when I left in the morning she apparently had a blast. I got several hours of work done including meeting interesting colleagues and got myself involved in another (exciting) research project.
The last afternoon, however, we got a call from the nanny. Apparently one of the twins had broken Zoe's doll stroller. Was it okay if the nanny took her to Target to buy a new one? I agreed because Zoe had gone through lengths to convince me to actually bring this one in the first place. It was not a small doll stroller. It was the size that almost fit a toddler, which in turn broke it in the end, because the twin girl had sat in it, tearing the fabric. The night before we had left for the US, Zoe had packed some essential toys and included the stroller. I had hid it in the closet for the night and hoped that she would forget about it because bringing it would limit the number of shoes I could take. In the morning, however, Zoe went straight to the closet and picked it out. She eagerly put it back in the suitcase where I then attempted to dissuade her from bringing it: "Look Zoe, it doesn't fit", I tried and showed her that it couldn't get into the suitcase. She promptly turned it on an angle and proceeded to sip up the suitcase. "Look mom, it DOES fit!" she happily exclaimed and I realized I had lost.
At Target she got a new stroller and it still fit into the suitcase if you angled it from one corner to another. Next Stop: another little northeastern college town where a really good friend of mine lives and where we will be relaxing and having fun for three days.