One of my favorite reasons for working the long flight to Hawaii, is well, it is Hawaii. To me, even a short layover of 20 hours in Hawaii is worth it. Seeing a glimpse of the beach, of the sun, of all the beauty that Hawaii entails can help get me through a long winter. Another big reason I love these flights is that people are generally happy to be on the plane, often having realized that long awaited, long planned for goal of a family trip to the beautiful islands. When the flight attendants are happy, and the passengers are happy, it's a really good combination. Eight or ten hours together and six or seven services is also enough time to really get to talk to people. I LOVE getting to talk to people. I love hearing their stories. I love hearing how they have been planning these trips for many, many years. I love sharing with them all of my restaurant recommendations and fun things to do on their vacation. I love sharing my love of Hawaii with them.
A couple of months ago, a flight to my "happy place" became even more special. A large family of six people all boarded in "Make A Wish" t-shirts. We all know what that means. Someone in the group has a very serious illness, and more than likely this trip is their wish come true. It gives me goosebumps just to think about this, because most often the recipients of these trips are children. Children that have gone through things that no child should ever have to go through. Someone once explained it better than I ever could. Children get to live in a bubble for awhile before they grow up, but for these children, their bubble burst long before it should have.
As the family got settled in their seats, I introduced myself and offered any help I could give. The family consisted of Mom and Dad, twin sisters and two brothers. One of the twin sisters was very talkative, and the other was quieter. The more talkative sister, June, said, "I just had my 8th Birthday. I had cancer. But I'm better now and my hair is growing back and we are going to Hawaii! We got up this morning at four o'clock and left our house in our pajamas, but I changed in the car, because I can't wear my pajamas to Hawaii!" I was in love with this child before she finished her sentence. Not only was she adorable and sweet and a survivor, she was decked out from head to toe in jewels, glitter and all things pink. Be still my heart. As the long flight went on and on, and June got tired of her movies and her snacks and her family, she came back to visit me in the galley. I had her practice sitting on the jump seat like we do for take-off and landing, then showed her around the galley--the ovens, the drinks, the snacks. Back on the jump seat, she sat on my lap (jump seats are the smallest seats in the whole world) and started to look at all my jewelry, because to be honest, I'm a jewelry freak, too. I'm usually covered in far more jewels than I am supposed to be wearing while at work. She would touch my bracelet, and want the story on it --where it came from, when I got it, why did I like it. I would do the same to her. The same with earrings and necklaces. By this time she had figured out I was a kindred spirit, a girly girl who loved all things well, girly. But then we got to rings. June said, "I just painted my nails last night for the trip! I bet you did, too! Let me see your nails!" And I remembered I had not taken the time to paint my nails, and not only that, I hadn't even thought about my nails for a while and they looked like it. I tried to hide my nails, but she wouldn't have it and the look on her face when she saw my "nails" was classic. "You didn't do your nails for the trip to Hawaii? Why not? How could you go to Hawaii and not do your nails?" I knew telling her I went to Hawaii almost every week wasn't going to be a good enough answer, so I just fessed up and said, "I forgot to do my nails last night and it was too late this morning and I was too rushed," and June looked at me like the teacher used to do in school when I was chatting with my neighbor and said, "Promise me you won't ever do that again, ever." And I did. I promised my new friend June that for her, I would always check to make sure that my nails were done before I went to Hawaii, or on any plane. Every single time.
June went back to her seat and I went back to work. Every time I passed by June, she looked up and smiled at me like we had a secret. (We did.) But in the craziness of getting to Hawaii, people rushing off the plane to get to their long awaited vacations, June disappeared. Not just June, but her whole family. I was devastated. My new girlfriend was gone. As I deplaned I looked for her everywhere, hoping that she had not gotten away from me. But she had. She got away. I had come up with an idea that we would be pen pals, and that I would send her jewels and postcards from far away destinations, and I would know that she was OK, that she truly had put her cancer battle behind her for good. But that didn't happen. She got away.
But part of her will always be with me. If you see me on a plane working, please check my nails. Because I promised June that I would always take the time to paint my nails. You never know if the lovely Miss June will cross my path again. But I have to be ready for her if she does.