Thanks for sticking around for the 2nd part of my Kathyland Surprisecation tales.
Where was I? Oh yes, on the ground at Ontario International Airport.
Having landed at 11:59pm, I raced out to the Rental Car Shuttle and hoped there'd be a decent-sized-non-smokey car that was available. There was, I rented it, got lost leaving Budget Rental and still made it to In-N-Out on Vineyard before they closed at 1:00am. Which was a huge relief, I can assure you! It's not a trip home until I've driven thru In-N-Out.
By 1:30 I was at my brother's house talking with my nephew Jeff while we enjoyed the hamburgery deliciousness that is INO.
The next day was basically hanging out with my brother Brian & my nephews Matt & Jeff. I'd initially planned to be at my parents house by noon, but was enjoying the hanging out part too much to leave. When you don't live close to family, you tend to want to savor each moment you have with them.
My sister Diane called several times thruout the day for status updates. Since she was embedded (I've always wanted to use that word in a post!) at the family compound (that word too) she spoke in 'code' by pretending I was her husband. Yeah, we're geeks, I know!
The plan was for Di to somehow get everyone off the porch and into the house so they wouldn't see me as I drove up. Watches were syncronized and I called Di one last time when I was 5 minutes out. Then I was there, driving on their street, going past their house and turning around at the end of the cul de sac. Parked out of sight and as I approached the house my nephew Casey met me out front to serve as a shield as I walked up the front sidewalk. Casey is 6'7" and if there was anyone I could hide behind, it was Casey.
We walked up to the porch, in the front door, then I stepped around him and ran thru the living room into the family room and SCREAMED '"Merry Christmas Eve"!!
My niece Lindsay & sister Kelly screamed. My Dad & Mom started crying...and staring at me like they were seeing a ghost. I went up to hug them and they just about squeezed the life out of me! By then Kelly & Lindsay were crying. It was awesome...seriously, one of the best surprises I had pulled off to date.
After explaining the why's and wherefore's of my trip..and hugging everyone at least twice if not three times, it was time for a sisterly tradition...the drinking of the Jagerbombs!
Nothing says Christmas Eve like Jagerbombs with your sisters!
As more relatives arrived, they were suprised to see me on the front porch with the rest of my family. This was the first time in 7 years that we were all together for our family Christmas Eve shindig.
What made it extra special was my nephew Patrick was in town from Brockton, MA so not only were the original 5 Kish kids all under one roof, but all their kids were in attendance as well. It was awesome!
See for yourself!
Brian, Me, Patrick, Diane, Kelly, Dad & Mom
Watching the opening of the presents!
Mom & Dad with my nephew Patrick (visiting from MA)
A small portion of the menu :-)
It turned out to be an awesome night. I got to catch up with EVERYONE which was so satisfying on so many different levels. All families have their differences and ours is no exception, but when it comes to family get-togethers, we're all on the same page. For so many years this event would take place and I'd be on the East Coast or Denver, hoping that my well-timed phone call would let me talk with as many family members as possible. It was nice, but nowhere near perfect.
This year, Christmas Eve was perfect. I had my whole family in one room (and my sister-in-law Michele was watching us from heaven, I'm sure of it!) and it was honestly and truly the best feeling in the world.
It didn't matter what holiday we were celebrating as long as we were celebrating all together.
Thanks Universe for allowing me to be with everyone I love the most.
That was the phrase that stood out the most during my recent 'surprise-cation' to Southern California.
My family has always been big at surprises and surprising each other. So when I had a brainstorm about flying to California to surprise my family during their annual Christmas Eve soiree, I kept the idea to myself for a solid week. Then I told my sister Diane of my plans, figuring I would need crucial info on the plans for Christmas Eve evening. Two days before I left, with the very real possibility of snow delaying/cancelling my flight, I took my brother Brian into my confidence as well, since I'd need a place to stay near the airport if my flight was delayed.
Ah yes...my flight!
Now that I live in Colorado, snow and airport closures become part of the grande scheme of thing come Winter. The chances of snow in December? Good. Actually, great! So it was with some trepidation that I read the weather report for Dec 23. Snow all day. Gulp. Okaaay. Decided early on that I would be flexible that day and travel with the mindset that the Universe would lead me to where I needed to be. (Good call, Kath!)
Got to work early so I could leave early. My roomie kindly drove me to DIA as friends tweeted good luck wishes for a smooth and timely flight. Got to DIA only to find check-in DESERTED. Seriously, no one was there and I had the fastest check-in of my life. Security was equally deserted as well. So far so good.
Got to my gate to find that my plane was delayed 10...no 20....no, close to 90 minutes. Then the plane was there, but no pilot or crew to fly the plane. Then? YAY! Pilots! Crew! Run run run! Everyone board the plane NOW! Quick-like-a-bunny-NOW!
We boarded in record time and as soon as the cabin doors shut and we breathed a collective sigh of relief, the pilot announced that the Tower just informed him that DIA was closed. As in, no planes could leave.
While visions of missed connections danced in our heads, the pilot asked us to think positive as he pleaded our case to the Tower. Several minutes later, yay, we had clearance to depart. We taxied all over the tarmac, eventually got deiced, taxied some more with extra taxiing on the side, and 90 minutes after pulling back from the gate, the pilot revved the engines harder than I've ever heard and woosh, the last plane allowed to leave DIA was airborne.
At this point, I knew my connecting flight in Vegas would be leaving without me and I'd be spending the night in Vegas. Staying true to my goal of being ok where the Universe led me, I had visions of slot machines and a taxi-ride thru the Vegas In-N-Out.
Seems the Universe had other plans! As we started to descend into Vegas the pilot announced that the flight for Ontario (my flight) was being held! YIPPEE!! While I wouldn't classify it as a bona fide Christmas Miracle, it was definitely a really good thing and made me sorta teary-eyed that Southwest would wait for me and the other 22 passengers that needed to continue on to Ontario.
As soon as we landed and could unstrap ourselves, the Flight Attendants encouraged us to "Run like the wind down to Gate 19"...so we did! Thankfully it wasn't that far (we'd deplaned at Gate 25) and as I hustled I thanked myself several times for never checking bags on a connecting flight.
Southwest personnel frantically waved us into Gate 19 and the man in front of me was in tears as he thanked the ticket taker...and I wasn't far from tears to be honest.
Took the first seat I found which was a middle seat but at that point I would've gladly taken a jump seat, heaved my carryon into an overhead bin..and 3 minutes later we took off for California! SWEET!
As we taxied out to the runway, the passenger to my right was shaking and quivering and didn't look all that good. While not wanting to bother her, I felt sorry for her and eventually my wanting to help cancelled out my fear of bothering her.
Turns out she was having a panic attack since she HATED flying and had endured 3 hours of turbulance flying from New Orleans. She looked all of 13 and was small enough to fit in your pocket. And crying. And scared. (Maybe this was where the Universe needed me to be after all?)
So I introduced myself and said that altho I was a stranger, if she needed to hold my hand or talk or cry or anything, I was there for her. And that's how I met Torie, a 22 year-old dental hygenist who'd just moved from CA to LA and was flying back to spend the holidays with her parents. She recounted to me how she almost missed her flight from NOLA, she dropped her laptop while running to catch her flight, her new laptop was now broken and she KNEW she couldn't afford to fix it, she missed her boyfriend who was visiting his parents in Florida, she was dehydrated from crying for the last 3 hours.....you get my drift. The poor thing was a mess. :-(
Tried my best to calm her down and get her to relax and it seemed to do the trick. She did even better once she gulped down a can of water in 2 minutes flat. And then we were on the ground, then at the gate and her ordeal was over.
She gave me a hug and thanked me for offering help...and even tho I am Jewish boy did I get a huge Christmassy feeling inside. It's a good feeling to help others and the reward from taking the risk pretty much convinced me that I was where I was supposed to be at that place in time.