Sarge is a man who likes rules. He just pulled out the tape measure, and by his count, if I don’t overstuff my bag, I will be within airline regulations (62-inch maximum dimensions) for check-in luggage our trip.
He got us all good-sized Army duffel bags for Christmas. He said if that’s all the room soldiers need to take on yearlong deployments, that’s all we need to take to Croatia for eight months. So we’re each taking a duffel bag and a backpack.
At least that’s the plan. I haven’t even packed yet, and I’m already trying to figure out how to break the rules.
Sarge is heading out before the rest of us. That leaves me to finish packing and meet him halfway around the world with A&W, our 10- and 11-year-old boys.
The last time I traveled solo with them, it almost felt like we were going to be on an episode of “Locked Up Abroad.” It was Thanksgiving weekend, and I let the boys pack their electronics and snacks themselves. I didn’t even look to see what they stuffed in their bags.
Next thing I know, we’re getting flagged by the Transportation Security Administration in the airport screening line. They cordoned us off to wait, and I started sweating, wondering if someone smuggled drugs in our bags and if I was going to get arrested and handcuffed in front of the kids. Soon, a small swarm of TSA agents appeared. I had no idea what was going on, but they were examining something in W’s backpack.
“Whose bag is this?” an agent asked about the old black military backpack with a helicopter embroidered in yellow stitching.
“It’s my son’s,” I stammered. “I mean, it’s my husband’s, but my son is using it.”
An agent pulled something out of the bag, and after a prolonged discussion in their security huddle, they finally showed me what was so troubling. It was a bullet. I had forgotten that was the backpack Sarge sometimes took deer hunting. He had left a rifle bullet as long as my thumb inside. W swears he didn’t know it was there.
The TSA confiscated the bullet and let us continue to our gate. I figured they put us on some kind of watch list and will double-check us for weapons on every trip we take from here to eternity.
When we finally got on the plane and settled in for takeoff, W pulled something else I didn’t know he had out of the backpack. It was a crucifix. He hung it neatly on the tray table hook and looked pretty pleased with himself.
I had to crack up, wondering what the TSA agents thought about a boy carrying candy, a bullet and a crucifix. W said he just wanted to pray for our safe travels.
I’ll take all the good mojo we can get, knowing that wherever we go, we’ll get there on a wing and a prayer.