A Little Boy on a Plane.


That was the name of the little three-year-old boy sitting behind me on the plane.  Of course I’m only guessing at his age, but after raising some of my own I’m usually pretty darn accurate!

So this is the story about a plane ride I shared with a little boy named Bronson.

I knew his name well before the plane even lifted off.

“Bronson.  Zip your bag and put it under the seat.”

“Why?” said Bronson.

“Because I said so”.

“Bronson.  Not so loud.  We’re on a plane”.

“Why?” said Bronson.

“Because we are”.

“Bronson.  Turn the tablet off”.

“Why?” said Bronson.

“Because the pilot said so”.

At age 55, I felt a certain kinship with Bronson.  We were both a little excited and antsy for our journeys.  I was on the first leg of my very first European adventure, a trip my husband and I had planned for months.  I wasn’t exactly sure of where little Bronson’s journey would take him, but I  heard mention of “Grandma” and “Maine”. Wherever this little fella was going, I could tell he was excited by the way he enthusiastically kicked the back of my seat.

“Bronson.  Don’t kick the seat in front of you”.

“Why?” said Bronson.

“Because it bothers people”.

However Bronson’s mom couldn’t focus all of her attention on him, because in her lap she held a very small baby and in the seat next to her was another child I guessed to be around five years old.

This was one brave mom.

I remember flying alone once with my 3-month-old.  I ended up with puke all over my shirt and all over my son before the flight even took off.  I remember trying to tidy us up in the confines of the airplane bathroom. I remember the bathroom was hot.  So hot.  That was the stress of flying with only one kid.  This mom had three.

As I said.  Brave woman.  Super hero even.

When the plane took off, Bronson was fine.  I could tell because there was not a second’s lapse in the kicking of my seat.  However, the older boy was a little nervous I guessed because his mom began to explain to him how she used to be scared to fly.  She talked with him about basic aerodynamics.  About how a plane is really just a glider.  She spoke in a soft and comforting voice that ended with her one final comment on the subject.

“So once I learned all that, I was never afraid to fly again”.

And because little boys believe their moms to be the smartest humans in the world, her words did the trick.

Just a seat over, Bronson wasn’t concerned at all about the safety of the flight.  He had a window seat and he was in awe.

Kick, kick, kick.

The more excited he became, the more intense the kicks.

My husband and I grinned at each other every time we heard the sweet little boy voice say “Why?”,  remembering our own familiarity with the word.  With all of our babies grown and gone, we were enjoying the energy playing out behind us.  There were conversations between the two brothers about how super heroes would fly the plane.  There were a few arguments over whose turn it was to use the tablet.

I’d brought along with me the Harper Lee biography, but I gladly closed it and packed it away because the story going on behind me had me hooked.  That, and I was getting a little air sick trying to read while my seat was being pummeled!

“Bronson.  Stop.  Put it away.  Don’t.”  Firm words spoken calmly.

At some point in the four-hour flight from Texas to New Jersey, the voices from the row behind me grew quiet as all the little ones slept.

I was happy for their mom.  If anyone deserved a break, it was this gal.

I took out my phone, clicked on my “notes” app, and began to type the bits of conversation I’d heard from the row behind.  I thought I might later write a light-hearted blog about this funny little boy and the ride we’d shared.

Before we knew it, Manhattan Island came into view out our windows–Bronson’s and mine.  The row behind me began to stir and the flight attendant announced we were beginning our descent.  Bronson began talking excitedly and loudly.  I waited for his mom’s response, and it came.

“Bronson, we’re still on the plane,” she reminded.

“Why?” he asked.  

“Because we are,” she answered, patient as ever.

And then there was the one other announcement.

The passengers were told there was a fallen soldier on the plane.  We were requested to remain seated when the plane landed until the family had made their way off the plane.

That’s when Bronson said this.

“Are we gonna see Daddy at the hospital?”

His mommy, the brave one traveling with three small children by herself responded.

“No.  Remember Daddy’s not alive anymore. We’re taking him home.”

My heart fell all to pieces for this mother.   So calm.  So patient.  In the midst of unimaginable sorrow.  Incomprehensible grief.  I had only a glimpse of her face when I sat down in front of her,  yet I’d listened to her voice for several hours.  Her peaceful voice.

God.  The only thought I could think.  Dear God.

Then there was Bronson’s voice.  So full of life and so matter-of-fact and curious.

“Where is Daddy?” he asked.

“He’s under the plane”,  his mom answered.

“Did we run over him?”  he asked.

“No.  We didn’t run over him”,  she answered.  “He’s inside the plane,  just under where we’re sitting”, she said.  So patient with her little boy’s logic.

And then we were on the ground.  There was a flurry of movement in the seats behind us…a gathering up of gadgets and backpacks and diaper bags.

The plane fell quiet as this little family emerged from their row behind us–the very last row on the completely full plane.  I thought they should have been in first class.

They spilled into the narrow aisle.  The oldest child.  Then the mom and the baby.  And then little Bronson, wearing his backpack like a big boy, pulling up the rear and following closely behind his mommy–the brave woman I mentioned earlier.  Only then, I didn’t know the half of it.

I looked at that little boy, so full of life and a million and one questions!   I felt such sadness that his dad wouldn’t be there to answer any of them.  Slowly they made their way to the front of the plane–with the sorrowful eyes of every passenger watching–and then they were gone.

I continued on my journey, and Bronson continued on his.

I went to Europe and little Bronson went to Maine to lay his daddy to rest.

And here’s the thing.

My best day is someone else’s worst day. I had forgotten that until God saw fit to give us some crummy seats on the back of a plane in front of a rambunctious little boy.

I am grateful for the reminder that life is strong and fragile, ugly and beautiful, happy and sad–all at the same time.  And that grace is sometimes only a whisper, but oh so present through all of it.

I am reminded.

My reminder came with a name.