Flying internationally with small children is fraught with many different stressful occurrences. I have several stories along those lines, but this one in particular stands out. It was 2000, I was flying back to England from Tennessee with my two sons ages 1 and 9. We landed at Charles de Gaul in Paris after the long flight across the Atlantic. Although it was a reasonable hour in Paris, our body clocks were registering it as 2 am. We were tired and bleary-eyed, and not looking forward to yet another flight. In Paris, at that time, travelers were herded down into waiting areas to catch buses for transportation to other terminals. For some reason, on that particular occasion there were quite a lot of us packed into a small waiting room. My oldest, Hanno, plopped on a bench barely able to stay awake. It wasn’t until we were in the bus moving to the next terminal that he noticed his backpack was missing.
There was no way we could go back to the other terminal to look for it, so I suggested that when we got to our next gate we talk with the airport personnel. At the new terminal, the two Air France flight attendants were very kind, but made it clear that we should not expect to see it again. At this point, my son’s big brown eyes flooded with tears as he pleaded: “You don’t understand! It’s not JUST a backpack. It has my gameboy in it. On the gameboy, I have played several levels of Pokemon! I’ve reached the Silver level. It will take hours to re-do all the levels.” One of the Flight Attendants took pity on him, and promised to try and find his backpack.
Our flight to Newcastle was pretty miserable. My son was inconsolable. And upon arrival, we discovered that my suitcase was also missing. I went to the service desk to report my missing suitcase, and once again I told that person about the backpack. “Aw I’m sorry lady, but if you lose something in the Paris airport, it’s pretty much gone for good. The suitcase we can probably recover, the backpack – not much hope there.” I cuddled Hanno, and said, ‘I’m sorry’.
The next day, our neighbor girl, Laura came over to say hi to Hanno who was crashed out on the sofa fast asleep. I invited her in for a chat anyway and was just telling her about the backpack when the doorbell rang. At the door, was a man standing next to my suitcase. I am certain my face fell when I saw my lone case. The deliveryman, though, broke into a big grin as he pulled a bag off his shoulder and said, “I believe this belongs to you as well?” It was my son’s backpack! I shrieked with delight. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a child’s beat-up bag. I thanked the man profusely (who I’m sure was greatly bemused by it) and took the bag inside to show to Laura – leaving my suitcase outside on the step.
We decided to sit the backpack on the footstool next to the sofa and wait for Hanno to wake up. As his eyes fluttered open, the first thing he saw was his green and black backpack. It took him awhile to get fully awake and realize he wasn’t dreaming. He immediately opened it to see if everything was still there, pulled out his Gameboy and turned it on. All was as he had left it. That’s when the shrieking began – unbounded joy – the kind of joy that only takes place when an unexpected mercy occurs.
I don’t know how many people were involved in finding and delivering that backpack, but I’m certain it took several – starting with an Air France flight attendant whose heart broke open.