There comes a moment when any experienced belly-acher recognizes that it is time to shut the hell up. Mine came at 4.20 am, after 47 hours of packing, staring at the itinerary, repacking, checking the various elevations of our activities, weather reports and oh yes, repacking. Pausing, then flinging
my hands up, tossing things at bags. Tetrising food into the cooler, too tired by then to remember that crucial note I had meant to write down, but, oh never mind because -
Is it time? Do we leave now? Are they here? a burble of boys tumbled in to our room, alarmingly bright-eyed. Bouncing, even.
Almost, I told them, and woke up their father.
It was full dark outside when we closed the door behind us. The street was quiet, the lamps glowing, and there was a long white limousine. The door was held open by a smiling gentleman, who also insisted on carrying our bags. Inside, a bar curved along one side, holding crystal glassware - and spring water. Are you ready? he asked, and as he started the engine, tiny lights began to twinkle from the ceiling.
Were we ready? Sitting in that improbable car, I felt adrift from reality. Anything could happen now, it seemed, and perhaps that was the point.
Driving through a silent, sleeping city, the Eldest looked out the windows, at the shining lights of the ceiling, and leaned towards me.
Mum, he whispered, oh Mum, my Wish is coming true.
I looked at his face, and threw away any squirms or wriggles I might have. Dug out the gigantic blue pins. Attached them to the boys' bags. We were a Wish family, the buttons announced. Something special was happening here, said the buttons, and we wore that specialness on our faces, and on our bags in a language that anyone could read.
The boys bounced through the airport, wrapped in a fog of their pleasure. People looked quickly, almost wincingly at their buttons, I thought, but some smiled and met our eyes. Wrapped in their glow, the boys didn't notice. When the plane took off, the Eldest's eyes were alight. It is happening, he breathed. My Wish!
It was a glow hard to sustain over the next 15 hours, but a quiet word with an airline attendant, and we relit the kid.
We are beginning our final descent, said the captain, and told us the local time and other bits of useful information. And I know you will join me in wishing the best of luck to one of our passengers....seated in this row, the Eldest is on his way to Hawaii, thanks to the Make A Wish foundation. His Wish is to climb a volcano and save some endangered species, and we wish him the best of luck.
There was silence for a moment. Then, applause. The Eldest's face shifted from startled to thrilled, and he waved at the cheering people around him. And graciously accepted the invitation to the flight deck, where he and the Toddles asked enough questions about the workings of the wings and navigation system to give the captain pause. He recovered swiftly, and offered thoughtful, crisp answers - but the boys could barely hear him over their determination to push every button and knob within reach. Not, thankfully, including the parking brakes. The Man and I fielded eager hands, redirected eyes towards the answers being given, and used the butterfly net to collect and direct the boys towards thank-you and our next flight.
That's quite a pair you have there, the captain told me. Something special? Behind him, an airline attendant raised her eyebrows and looked sympathetic. He grinned. Must keep you busy, eh?
Oh, yes, I nodded. And zipped off, following the Eldest and his glow.