I won’t concentrate on some of the negatives. It’s not the season for that. I’ll just say that, on the flight from Newark to Atlanta, me alone with both my small children, I had what you might call a pleasant surprise.
It came about twenty seconds after my two-year-old son vomited all over himself and me and began to bawl. I was then busy doing what I needed to be doing: taking off his shirt and sweater, wiping his and mine with my sweatshirt, telling him he’s OK, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I was also half-shouting at my daughter, who is looking on in disgust and starting to wretch, telling her that under no circumstances is she allowed to vomit like her brother. This I did in Spanish, as if that would somehow make any of this spectacle more private, as if any of the fellow passengers would have heard Nico throwing up all over himself and then seen our hurried stripping and then overheard me say, no vomites, mija! and figure we were talking about whether she likes Dora or Diego better.
Ah, right: the pleasant surprise. At some point during la purga, I realized that all this vomit didn’t really smell like vomit at all. It had been such an early departure–6 am, with a 3:30am wakeup–that he hadn’t wanted to eat breakfast beyond a handful of raisins and dry Chex cereal earlier in the flight. But still, toddler vomit is supposed to be every bit as noxious as an adult’s. These aren’t little infant spitups. They are usually full calamities. Almost a year earlier, Nico basically cleared out the rear third of a transcontinental Virgin Airlines 757 through emesis. So when all this happened, and I realized that instead of frat-row-basement, Nico now smelled more like one of Momofuku Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies gone wrong: slightly dairy, a little off. The effect, that time and the next two times he threw up on me/him/his sister, was sort of like stunt vomit.
The technical question, I guess, is what’s up with that? We need some kind of Slate Explainer to walk us through the various forms of regurgitant to figure out what exactly spared us.
Or perhaps I shouldn’t probe. It all could have been so much worse. That 6am flight was delayed for de-icing so we had to run–me carrying both kids, actually–through the vast tubular terminals and intraterminal rail-lines of Atlanta’s airport in order to just make our connecting flight. But we made it, and by then Nico’s stomach was calmed again, and he was making jokes about Atlanta-Santa and we were headed down to my hometown of Key West, where half the people are already covered in vomit anyway, so he was going to fit in no matter what, and everything was actually totally OK.