I love Thanksgiving. We always have the big dinner, taking turns hosting with a friend, and a group of us get together and celebrate. I love the time to regroup with family and friends, to have the reminder to give thanks for what we have, and to start the Holiday season, my favorite time of year.
This year one good friend moved away and the other had a baby and wanted to spend the holiday introducing her baby to the extended family. This left us to ourselves. We thought, why rush back and travel with the masses. Let’s fly back from Argentina on Thanksgiving day, which is supposed to be one of the lighter travel days of the year.
Our flight was an overnight to Houston (Wednesday night to Thursday morning) with a 1.5 hour layover before our flight to San Francisco. We knew it was tight with immigration but we thought it was doable.
As a precaution, I packed up our carry-ons before the flight landed, and sent my husband and son ahead when we landed as I finished packing up and waited for the stroller. By the time I had caught up after navigating the long walkway and several elevators, my husband was near the front of the line.
Here is where the first flaw in my plan came. The holiday also means less staff and the staff that were working were perhaps junior staff members. That morning they had two lines open for citizens and green card holders, yes I said TWO. And one line got held up by someone for 20 minutes as the immigration officer went though paper after paper and kept calling his supervisor.
Now I started to worry. I mentioned to the attendant that we have two young children and a tight connection, to which she responded “90% of the people have connections”. Welcome back to the US.
They finally open a 3rd line and we manage to get through in 5 minutes. We race to baggage claim and had to take a really high escalator going down. My husband went down with my son and at last minute my son panicked and let go of my husband’s hand. Now my son was at the top crying for his dad who is 1/2 way down. I tried to take him to the elevator with me but he threwdown refusing and screaming. We had no time to reason with a 3 year old. I sent him down by himself worrying as he’s unsteady and by himself when a border patrol agent, watching this, rushed over and jumped on the escalator to hold his hand and ride down with him. I was so relieved.
Thankfully I have priority status so our bags were priority tagged and were one of the first ones out. We rushed through customs and out to security. Our flight was now boarding in terminal C and we were in E. The nice TSA agent told us a shortcut and we took off running, my husband pushing the double and me weighed down with our overstuffed bags. I could not keep up with my husband and started to worry. Suddenly a cart comes by and I recognized someone. “Going to the San Francisco flight?”. The passangers stopped the driver and I jumped on board, making it to the gate just as my husband got to the gate.
The gate agents, who had held the plane a few minutes for the 7 of us making this connection, quickly processed us as we all rushed aboard. My husband closed the stroller and walked on to the plane and they shut the door behind him. It was the closest I had ever come to missing a flight.
When we got to San Francisco we found out stroller had not made the flight. So we waited in line to file our lost baggage claim with the United baggage agent. Then we took a Super Shuttle back to our house with two other couples visiting San Francisco for the weekend. Later that evening, my husband went to the local convenience store to get milk for the kids and we used Grubhub to find a Chinese restaurant that delivered on Thanksgiving day. After the kids went to bed, our stroller was delivered straight to our door.
As I waited in the immigration line, in the lost bags line, and for our shuttle I was struck by a prevailing thought thoughout the day. A lot of people work on Thanksgiving Day – a lot.
From the border agents who processed our reentry or helped my son, to the TSA agents, flight gate staff and crew, shuttle driver, down to the guys who delivered dinner and my stroller. It took a small army so my family could get home that night. I had always lamented the encroachment of Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day and making retail workers give up time with their families. But the truth is, a lot of people work so a privileged few can be with family and friends on a day of gratitude. Sure, some of those people will work the morning and still get home to a dinner later. But a lot will fly the planes in the evening, deliver dinner or lost bags to others, or even drive home those who just arrived while forgoing time with their own family.
So that night we set the nice plates out, filled them with Chicken and Broccoli and Vegetable Fried Rice, we bowed pur heads on thoughts of thanks, and we each went around and said what we are most thankful for. Me, I was most thankful for the quality time I had just gotten to spend with my family, and that we were together to celebrate, even if its over wonton soup instead of turkey. We are so lucky, and should never forget it.