Dream to Reality

Ada waiting for her first international flight

The most feared part of traveling with a child: the plane. I dreaded the irritated glares from fellow passengers watching me carry my toddler onto their ten hour flight. I needed a plan to keep my daughter (and us) comfortable. I chose a flight near her bedtime, brought lots of new little toys, snacks and most importantly, Benadryl to help her sleep.

After Ada spent a few hours running through the airport, she slept most of our flight from San Francisco to Rome. Aaron and I ate her snacks, watched some movies and took sporadic naps. We flew a total of fourteen hours without one toddler-style tantrum. I was relieved: our sixteen month old daughter was a natural traveler.

We had a few problems once we arrived in Rome. First of all, our stroller never arrived off the airplane. I’m not sure how an airline looses a stroller while flying over Western Europe, but British Airways did. After thirty impatient minutes, we gave up and carried Ada (while dragging our three bags) outside to meet Sergio our taxi driver.

Second problem: our car seat wouldn’t strap into the taxi. Aaron pushed and shoved the car seat; he pulled seatbelts in all directions. Nothing worked. Sergio (now late for his next pick-up) said that Italian law doesn’t require a toddler to use a car seat. So in a brainless moment, we tossed it in the trunk. Yep, a complete moment of stupid. Especially once Sergio began to drive.

Sergio was the stereotypical Italian driver. He straddled two freeway lanes while weaving through rush hour traffic. It felt like cruising through fluid chaos. With my daughter peacefully asleep in my arms, I said a few prayers and watched Rome unfold on the horizon.

The third problem was my husband. While Sergio drove, Aaron assaulted him with foolish questions. I spent months learning as much Italian history, culture, language as possible and I spent months harping at my husband to learn something – anything – about Italy. But nope – he declared he would learn about Italy once we landed in Italy. And he meant it: he treated poor Sergio like a guidebook. And I was stuck listening to him make a fool of himself (like asking “so, how do you say, ‘where’s the toilet’ in Italian?”) and doing nothing positive to help the reputation of American tourists. I didn’t whack him upside the head (oh, I sure wanted to…). Instead, I promised to give Sergio a “please forgive my husband’s ignorance” tip.

We entered Rome’s historical center at twilight. As we zipped around a corner, Mussolini’s Victor Emmanuelle Monument commanded our view. Its massive marble steps, columns and statues were brilliant white against the indigo night. It was our first taste of Rome’s historical glory and our trivial problems were instantly forgotten. I was in love.