My real-life version of Goldilocks:
One car seat was too small.
One car seat was workable.
And one car seat was nowhere to be found.
But I'm getting ahead of myself....
This last week my dad's side of the family held its every-other-year gathering. We travel to different locations each time, and this year, after much deliberation on our secret Walworth Facebook group (Your family has a Facebook group, right? It's not just mine?), we settled on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Because of the way our award travel worked with Alaska, our best deal was to fly to Atlanta, rent a car, and drive up, which seemed like a great idea when I was booking it. Uncle Cole was enthusiastic. "Adventure," we said!
I packed up Marshall.
Uncle Cole packed up his BBQ sauce.
And away we went.
[Before I continue, I should share that I am unabashedly devoted to Alaska Airlines and really talked them up to Uncle Cole. "Prepare yourself, Cole. They are the best! The BEST!"]
After an hour of sitting in the plane, still at the gate, we heard the following message, "Well, folks. We realized that this plane has no gas, so we're on 'the list' to get fuel. We're not sure how long that will take."
Uncle Cole turned to me, "This is your favorite airline, Lauren?"
By some vacation miracle, they held the plane for us in Portland, so we made our flight to Atlanta. The BBQ sauce, however, didn't. Instead, the BBQ sauce got a Delta flight to Atlanta. Uncle Cole reminded me that Delta has the little screens behind each seat. So while our BBQ sauce caught up on House of Cards, we got meal vouchers for the Burger King in the Atlanta airport.
Our car seat though? No idea, they said.
Alaska Air loaned us a car seat, which turned out to be too small because I cannot accept that my 3-year-old child is the size of a large kindergartener. Thankfully, Alamo knew better and loaned us a better one. At about 10:00PM Eastern, we were on the road to the North Carolina coast, with a dozing preschooler, an angry uncle, and two car seats, neither of which was ours.
Our 48 some-odd hours in North Carolina were fantastic. I was still working, so I alternated cuddling with babies and working on music festival dinners, catching up with my uncles and selling ads. I tortured Marshall by making him put his feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and I bought some watermelons from the cousin of the cashier I met in the town's General Store. (I received no "We found it!" calls about the car seat.)
Everything was just Walworth-perfect until Arthur.
Of all the East Coast beaches, we happened to pick the one island that had a tropical storm headed its way, a tropical storm that turned into a hurricane.
I grew up in Southeast Alabama, close enough to the Gulf that hurricanes were a common part of our late summer-early fall weather narrative, but this was my first hurricane evacuation. Marshall thought it was monumental enough to document.
Thankfully, we got out in plenty of time, and after a few friendly-but-naggingly-persistent calls to Alaska, I was able to get our flights switched. "But we still can't find your car seat, Ms. Thompson."
We spent our time as displaced-by-a-hurricane travelers the only way we knew how--eating as much fried food and drinking as much sweet tea as possible, and when we arrived at the Alaska ticket counter at the airport, there was the car seat, looking appropriately apologetic for its waywardness.
The trip back was the Alaska Air I knew. The plane already had fuel. We departed early. We arrived in Seattle an hour ahead of schedule.
Uncle Cole still wasn't sold. Maybe next time.