This kid of mine. Several of you know, CJ from Round Top. He dropped in for a visit this past show, but he has moved on to his own dream of distilling whiskey so I lost my favorite helper. This has been a big week, he graduated from Texas State University and he turns 22 today. I got a bit sentimental today and while I was packing for India - of course our epic passport fail story came to mind.
It's funny now, in the moment - not so much. When my kids were little, I tended to hover. Admittedly, I was over involved and kept tabs on everything. When we moved overseas I worked hard to let that go. I wanted them to be independent.
CJ had flown on several flights with us as a family and with his school. Both of my kids were familiar with international airports, customs, and immigration. Coming home to Malaysia from a break in the United States it was just the three of us on the flight and our seats were separate coming from China to Malaysia. 2 and 1. One being in the rear of the plane. CJ insisted I keep the seats as is and that he take the lone placement, along with being responsible for his own passport. I think he was in 9th grade at the time? I was reluctant. But he argued his case with maturity and I caved. I gave him his passport, his plane ticket, and all the trust I could muster. I know we were on the same flight, but for me it was a really big struggle at the time.
We were on the last flight into Malasia before the airport closed for a bit. I was proud of that kid after we landed. We were exhausted. It was late and the kids had school in a matter of hours. 100 Feet from immigration I gather my passport and my daughter's from my back pack and turn to CJ for his. Y'all, the look on his face. He looked my dead in the eyes and said "you have it". If you know me, you know how well that statement went over. We step to the side and go through everyone's backpacks, pockets, jackets, and carry on - no luck. I send him running back to the gate - lights were off, no staff in sight, plane was gone.
Immigration, rightfully so, refused entrance. But that's not what this momma wanted to hear. I begged, pleaded ... I called my husband out of a meeting he was in on the other side of the world. Friends woke up their apartment neighbors who worked at the American Embassy and offered to come to Immigration on our behalf. Nada. These guys would not budge. CJ, was still insisting I had his passport - my temper - it was showing.
So, what do you do with two jet lagged kids in a closed airport as an emotional, exhausted mom with absolutely zero options until the supervisor came on duty MAYBE at 9am? We took turns sleeping on a bench until the airport started to come alive again and McDonalds opened. I stumbled in with the kids in tow. Ordered two juices and a coffee. I looked at CJ and said "Go. Go back to that gate and find someone to talk to. And I suggest you pray hard on your way there". It was now four or five in the morning?
20 min later, you hear squeaking tennis shoes on airport linoleum. CJ comes bursting into McD's with his passport above his head like he won the Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory. He's beaming. He's so delighted with himself. I'm annoyed but crying tears of gratitude. "Somehow" it got put in the seat pocket on the plane ....That particular plane happened to come back to that exact gate. And a very patient airline employee - who no doubt had to have been a parent as well, and knew this kid was in trouble - went on board and found it for him.
We got through immigration - but because we were so late getting our luggage it was was locked away. We now had to wait for the luggage office to open - another hour.... joy. Our regular driver was not available to come back out to the airport and finding a taxi willing to take us where we lived was not easy. I had to sweeten the deal by paying for a round trip journey so he could come back to the airport to collect another fare.
Both kids were exhausted. I was too, I was frustrated with CJ - but mind you I was accepting responsibility too. Because of his age, and I was the adult, and this is how kids learn by making mistakes right? On the ride home CJ mentions he can't wait to crawl in his bed and sleep. Oh hell no, that's when Tough Love Mom kicked in. I immediately called the school and explained the situation. Of course, they were aware as the embassy had already reached out. Lovely. I told them my youngest would be absent that day, but that CJ would be there - tardy, not in uniform, and exhausted. I had the driver pull into the school and drop him off when Nat and I went home for showers and a nap. (The min I woke up I ordered a cookie bouquet for the sweet embassy family I called in the wee hours of the morning).
The story was funny even a few days after. I can't completely fault CJ - I lose my own phone and keys multiple times a day - he comes by it honestly.
Now, a fully self sufficient adult. With his dream job. A college graduate. I could not be more proud of this kid. I adore you CJ. I love you big. Happiest of Birthdays.