The Nightmare Trip Before Christmas

Christmas HearthThe cards have been sent with 20 cents extra postage, the stockings are hanging perilously close to our gas fireplace, and I ate a dozen of the cookies I baked for the last exchange of the season. Tonight I am basking in the twinkling light emanating from all of the decorations inside my house while the electric meter is whirring outside in the bitter cold.

On the 6th night before Christmas, there are presents to be wrapped, but I can finally take a deep breath and relax. As I sip my first cup of tea, a memory of a Christmas from long ago swirls back from the past.

Kelly was five-weeks-old. Danny and I lived in a Boulder apartment on the third floor with outdoor steps. It had snowed and kept snowing. It was three days before Christmas and we would fly back to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate the holidays with our families. Our flight would take off at 4:00 PM.

Danny sat on the three suitcases so I could snap them shut. Along with Christmas presents, they were filled to bursting with every baby item we owned along with heavy sweaters and clothes for a christening. I also packed extra baby bottles, a breast pump and cloth diapers. I was new to the Boulder granola thing, but had embraced the idea of going green. I planned to wash them at my parent’s house and reuse the ones I brought. What was I thinking?

An hour later than we had planned on leaving, I finished packing. Danny carried the heavy suitcases down the slippery steps and threw them into the back of the Honda. I struggled with Kelly and a diaper bag while Danny ran back upstairs to get his brief case and carry-on bag. You could say that we were loaded.

While driving down Foothills Parkway, wet heavy snowflakes splattered on the windshield. We were almost out of Boulder when I panicked.

“Danny, I forgot my purse.”

He never said a word, but drove right up and over the median, made a U-turn, and headed back home.

I apologized, but he remained quiet. He swung into the parking lot, ran up the stairs and then emerged with the leather bag I had forgotten. We only had an hour and a half to get to the gate. We would miss our flight. My heart sank.

Kelly slept as we drove in silence. At the turn off to Stapleton Airport, cars were backed up a mile. The snow piled up and turned to gray slush as exhaust puffed out of the cars ahead.

After being in bumper to bumper traffic, it loosened up. Danny drove past all of the long-term parking lots.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“We don’t have time to park the car,” Danny said.

He pulled into the passenger drop off and unloaded the car. I held Kelly in his car seat, while holding my purse, a diaper bag, and a carry-on. A tall black man stood behind the check-in booth and asked for our tickets.

“Are we too late?” Danny asked.

“It shows that the flight hasn’t departed,” he said, “If you hurry, you might make it.”

Danny pulled out a business card and started scribbling. “Here is a number of a guy who can pick up the car. Can you park it for me?”

The man just stared at him and said, “Sure.”

Danny handed him the card, the keys, and $20 and said, “Thank you very much. Merry Christmas.”

I just stared at Danny as he grabbed his briefcase and grabbed the handle of the car seat from me. We started to run.

Doesn’t it always seem like when you are in a hurry, your destination is in the most remote location? We sprinted while overdressed in winter clothes, coats, hats, and gloves all the way to security and then to the end of the terminal.

After running for what seemed like miles, we finally made it. A crowd of people stared at us as we approached. It was 4:25.

Danny and I stopped and caught our breath. We hadn’t missed our flight. He raced up to speak to someone at the desk. The snow had been plowed, but there was something wrong with the plane.

We found a seat as the heat rose from my perspiring body and we waited.

Traveling Kelly

Overdressed for a really long stay at the airport or what?

For hours we waited. We were told to stay nearby in case we could get a flight out with another plane so we never went to a restaurant to eat. Kelly nursed.

Soon we ran out of diapers.  Danny bummed a disposable from another passenger. As the crowd grew restless, some went out looking for something to eat, but the restaurants closed at 10:00.

We flew to Chicago at 2:00 AM. They comped us a room at a nearby hotel where we took showers and slept for a few hours. We slipped on the same dirty clothes and flew out at 8:00 AM.

When we finally arrived in Madison Danny said, “From now on everyone can come to Boulder for Christmas.”

Kelly's first christmas 001 (2)

My sister Patty and Dad were a welcome sight at the airport 18 hours later!

That began a tradition that lasted until last year. My father can’t fly to Colorado because of a heart condition and my children and sister are scheduled to work through the holidays, so we will travel back to Madison in January!

Christmas with the famiily

I can’t wait until January!

Do you have any nightmarish travel stories?

68 thoughts on “The Nightmare Trip Before Christmas

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  1. My nightmare story is coming up next week! But it’s ready, so maybe I should just push PUBLISH now. Hmmmm. I’ll think on that. I did want to try to write something today. So if not today, on the 27th. Running out if diapers is scary. 😉


    1. Hahaha! And having nothing to eat, while worrying that we would never make it to Madison before Christmas!
      I picked up a bug and was sick in bed the last few days, but made it through most of the week… This was before hand sanitizers! 🙂
      I will look forward to reading yours! 🙂


  2. Your experience sounds horrifying but, yes, when baby Ming was 3ish, we got stuck in an airport for hours due to a volcano erupting at our destination. Needless to say, we have not travelled much since then!


  3. Although I’ve had a couple of bad ones…I think it was our transcontinental flight from Michigan to the Philippines that was our worst one. I was 6, my sister was 4, my brother was 2 and mom was pregnant. Although we didn’t have an issue getting the flight, the problems started on take off… As we lifted up, my normally quiet sister started screaming, crying & tugging on her ear. When mom looked, her ear was bleeding.
    They turned the plane around & had an emergency crew standing by. She’d ruptured her ear drum. Unfortunately, though, we had to go. Dad was on deployment. So they gave us some meds and off we went.
    When dinner was served, dessert was included. It was chocolate pudding. Why do I remember this so vividly? Because a girl a few aisles up projectile vomited the stuff all over the plane. Because it was a cross continent trip, the attendants did what they could to clean it up, but we were stuck with the stench till we landed.
    It was years before I became brave enough to eat chocolate pudding again.


    1. Ohhhhhhhhhhh nooooooooo! What a nightmare! I hope your sister can hear out of her ear…
      What is it about the smell of puke that can ruin a food for decades???
      Thanks for sharing your harrowing tale!


  4. You just reminded me of a couple crazy travel stories. One involved not having enough cash to take a cab from LaGuardia back to Manhattan years ago when our flight got canceled years ago and I was by myself late at night with my young boys and my husband was unreachable because he took the train back after getting us to the airport. This was before ATMs were everywhere.. Long story with the bottom line that I will NEVER travel again without plenty of cash on me..


    1. I can imagine that happening to me. Did you have to do a dance or sing for some money or did you just beg? I think I would have begged back in the day. Now I would dance!
      Thanks for sharing!


  5. Aw. I love how your family responded to the ordeal. I bet many traditions are born of mishaps. And how cute are you all in the photos???

    I’ve had some miserable Valentine’s Days. Do those count? 😉


  6. And this is why I’m glad we don’t have to go to Indiana for Xmas any more. We always drove, but my Grandpa made us feel guilty if we didn’t make it, so we went through some pretty bad storms.

    And Susie, you won the iTunes gift card for last weekend on Earth! I emailed the gmail you provided…


  7. What a great story! Not for you when it was happening but… Your husband is one patient trooper! Going way back home for your purse. Not sure I’d have been so patient. Hope your dad is well and the trip goes smoothly.


    1. Oh thank you! My dad was our Christmas miracle two years ago. When he arrived in Colorado, he was nearing a heart attack since he was in congestive heart failure. He spent a week in the hospital and was released on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, my sister came down with the flu so she wasn’t in the photo. You can see that he is weak and are holding his arms. He is still walking his dog twice a day! It should be a breeze in January, barring any snow storms…
      Danny is still patient after 25 years! I never left my purse at home again…
      Merry Christmas John!


  8. Excellent tale Susie. I have to head to JFK shortly and I hope all goes smoothly. I do not have any nightmare travel stories on the level of yours yet, but on the red eye flight back t New York from the Bay Area a year ago, they guy sitting next to me was naked. Yes, he stripped. That was not exactly a dream come true for me. It made Lame Adventures. Have a great Christmas!


    1. Oh my God! He stripped???? Was he a Chippendale’s dancer or a heftyweight beer bellied roly poly man?

      Thanks so much and happy trails to you! May you avoid all Lame Adventures…
      Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends!


    2. Ha! That is too funny. Bay Area folks are free that way whether they travel to NY, LA or back to Frisco. Have a great time up there … maybe you’ll run into Blissful Adventurer. And Susie I agree with her … I don’t have any crazy travel stories like this one…most of the zaniness happens via ground transportation 🙂


    1. We were crazy! We went to Key West a month later. We called our son Key West Kelly. That was another crazy story. My mother and father-in-law laughed at all the sweaters I brought. We drove from Ft. Lauderdale to the Keys and they got a cold snap. It was in the 40’s! I had to buy new warm clothes….


  9. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the car. Did it get rescued? And diapers – how’d you solve that problem? There’s more to this story that you’re not telling.

    So glad that everything turned out okay though. And now, you won’t have all the extra luggage to tote with you to Madision. The kids can bring their own crap – I mean, stuff. You see, having them grow up isn’t so bad after all. It does have certain advantages. And so do disposable diapers.

    Happy holidays and safe travels to you my friend!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. I think I mentioned that Danny bummed a disposable from another passenger. What a nightmare.
      After several bouts of diaper rash, I switched to disposables! 🙂
      A man who worked for Danny picked up the keys at United. I was in shock, but it was no problem. I gotta believe a person would have to give a bigger tip these days! This was in 1989!
      Happy Holidays to you and your family Patricia! Thanks so much for reading!


    1. I have never left my purse at home again, but that event has made me kind of OCD about leaving important stuff at home and we go to the mountains a lot! I do occasionally space out chargers and sunglasses. Now I keep extras in my car…
      I love that the kids pack themselves. They will sleep here the night before the trip, but have their own apartments now. Time flies!
      Have a Merry Christmas!


  10. I came here because of our joint Blog of the Year award from 4 am Writer. Any friend of Kate’s is a new friend of mine! Plus, I see lots of familiar faces here.

    We lead parallel lives. My dad was released from a nursing home yesterday. He had pneumonia, congestive heart failure, a heart attack, and several other serious health issues. He has been in and out of the hospital and nursing home since September.

    P.S. Love the 80s hairdo. Great story.


    1. Big hair RULED!!!
      Thanks for stopping by! I actually just clicked on your gravatar because of your comment on “Literally.” I have to go back to 4amwriter and check out the other bloggers!
      It is so great that they released your dad. Every day is such a gift. My dad is trooping along with only 30% function of his heart. He walks his dog twice a day. It is the medications that keep him going at 86 years old. 🙂
      Merry Christmas to you and your family!
      Snow is coming on Christmas day and it should dump in Vail!


      1. My dad is 89, so we do lead parallel lives. How great you dad is still able to walk the dog. Animals keep us young.

        Anne and Vanessa are great. Two of my favorite blog pals. Funny our paths haven’t crossed before, and funny that you saw my comment on “Literally.” I rarely comment on the Daily Post.

        Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


        1. That is weird parallel lives great minds, parents and all!
          Especially since I paged up from my comment and happened upon yours!
          I just met Anne and Vanessa. It is funny how huge the blogosphere is. I love it!
          You are new to the Wild Ride, but I have been snow dancing for a while now! Snow! Snow! Snow! ….dances with hands in air while spinning clockwise as Roxy the Bichon howls….


  11. That is a nightmare, but these things are sent to test us! It reminds me when I travelled back with my best friend and her dad in his van after babysitting in another county. It was snowing hard and New Year’s Eve. We made it to my house and she suggested me get changed at her house. I said I’d better eat with my family get changed and meet her out. The buses were cancelled, everyone went out to their respective do’s and I had to stay in all by myself 😦 I’ve spent two New Year’s Eve’s like that, it sucks! So I can’t complain about visitors this New Year’s, I certainly won’t be alone. Happy Christmas, Susie!


  12. I hope this year’s travels are better! I am not a great traveler, so I feel like every travel story has its own little hiccup. But I AM a writer, so I have to view them as fodder for more stories!

    I’m glad to find your blog. ; )


    1. Thank you! I have so much fodder to go through. This morning my husband was giving me all kinds of ideas from Christmases past! That’s what happens when all kinds of Hell breaks loose!
      Have a fabulous holiday season and avoid those hiccups!


    1. So true and it is a story I have told many times since it cracks me up that Danny just handed over the keys like that! It all worked out and I have had a story to tell. I have a lot of ’em… 🙂
      Thanks Mags!


  13. There were so many Christmas miracles in that story. Number one you’re still here to tell it. Number 2 no one was sent to jail for taking out that person who told you to stay put and Number 3 I’m assuming your car was safe. Safe travels in January when all the hoopla is have a beautiful family.
    ps. I had that same sweater!


  14. Its always nice to look back a disastrous trips like that, where everything seems to go wrong, but is all ok in the end. From a distance you can smile at the disasters and feel all warm because of the stuff that went right.


  15. Oh how I relate! We drove through a blizzard in the Scottish Highlands trying to get to my mother-in-laws for Christmas over twenty years ago. We were in a mini with a six week old baby and our dog, a chow-chow called Leo. Twice we got stuck in drifts. What the hell were we thinking? I’ve never done it since. For years everyone came to us!!!!

    Great post, Susie!


  16. Susie what a lovely and hilarious story! I’ve been there. 6 hours in the Chicago airport with a two year old. And we were potty training. LOL! It wasn’t long after that everyone flew to Boston for Christmas. What a beautiful family you have! Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Years 🙂


    1. Thank you so much Karista and a Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year to you too!
      I think it is so crazy to travel with little ones. I remember not driving anywhere without my kid’s little portable potty. Somehow we got through it! 🙂


  17. Aaaack! What a nightmare! But what a story … and I am in awe of Danny’s problem-solving technique!
    I saw Colorado had a big dump of snow today so assumed it was near you after all the snow dancing your recent posts have generated. Hope so!


    1. I still can’t believe that he did that! The car was at home when we got back!
      The mountains got a ton of snow, but we only got a half inch in Boulder! No lie! I tweeted my complaint and someone from 9News promised 4 more inches! It cracked me up that they even saw my tweet. We are hoping for another storm on Christmas day. Still dancing…
      Thanks Patricia and Merry Christmas to you and your family!


    1. Isn’t that the truth? I miss it too. They were much simpler times.
      Thanks so much Sheri! You are right. It is still very vivid like it happened yesterday even though yesterday is a blurrrrrrrrr….
      Thank you so much and Merry Christmas and safe travels to you too!


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