Lofty tots take all the cake
THEY say that travel expands the mind, which, on the available evidence, is a debatable point. What isn’t beyond question is that travel expands my children. Up to a point.
This is especially true on long-haul flights when my wife and I feed them any morsel of food available in a desperate ploy to avert midair riots, thoroughly stuffing them in the hope they’ll be left with no choice but to pass out in postprandial exhaustion and sleep it off for a few hours.
We’re on fairly safe ground, given that our ever-peckish offspring have much in common with black holes; nothing that strays close to those little gobs ever escapes.
Our son Leo, who’s still small enough to count as carry-on luggage, has barely progressed beyond his baby gibberish but clearly understands the word marshmallow, even when spelled out by his not-so-cunning parents. Our fiveyear-old daughter Daisy seems to be able to make a muffin vanish simply by staring at it from the other side of a room. Both can swallow cake in a way that would ring bells with anyone who’s seen an anaconda in action.
And where better than on a plane? After all, where else (other than at yum cha) do you have so many trolleys laden with so much tucker lumbering past in a confined space and in such a state of vulnerability?
If it’s a nice airline, they might even go to the effort of doling out special kids’ meals, although the downside here is that they often include all manner of treats you end up wanting to steal for yourself.
So we have Daisy and Leo gobbling in a state of supreme contentment through the long hours and the time zones. Other parents, we smugly note, haven’t learned our trick, judging by the screaming and tantrums (usually the children) periodically erupting elsewhere in the plane.
The drawback is that we inevitably end up gorging along with the munchkins in a state of companionable gluttony. By the time we touch the tarmac, after roughly three weeks in the air, my wife and I feel strangely bloated, as if we have each swallowed a pillow.
Not the kids, though, who are agile and perky. As we lift them, we discover why. This is where the other cosmic parallel kicks in. Just as black holes swallow everything but emit a telltale jet of X-rays — invisible except to radio astronomers — somy little ones hoover up everything while emitting an apparently invisible stream of sultanas, crumbs, mangled crusts and nearly but not quite whole apples. Invisible, that is, until we do as the radio astronomers do and look in the right places.
In this case, it’s in the cushions, in the seat, down the side and elaborately arranged in the seat pocket among the magazines and sick bags.
My wife and I, on the other hand, have neglected to do this, having carelessly unlearned this vital skill somewhere on the way to adolescence. I ruefully touch my stomach and wonder how long the pillow sensation will last.
Daisy and Leo’s midden is fairly mild compared with the heaps of detritus lovingly accumulated and abandoned by some of the grown-up passengers, and will — I tell myself — probably provide employment for a couple of extra cleaners.
Daisy and Leo gaze in wonder at the sight. Leo coos happily at a forgotten crust and pops it in his mouth.
‘‘ Goodness, what a mess,’’ Daisy observes. Then, patting her round but as yet unstuffed belly, asks: ‘‘ What’s for dinner?’’