Thanksgiving in London and Paris: Snuggling Babies Across Borders

Posted on November 12, 2011


(The following is the third in my new series, “Old Posts to Dredge out on Slow Weekends Because When I Posted Them Originally People Cared More About the Economy and World Peace Than My Blog.” Although nothing has changed, it’s the start of a slow weekend.)

I spent last Thanksgiving in London with my daughter, son-in-law, and brand new grandson.  My younger son and his girlfriend Janelle joined us.  My son and Janelle have been together over a year, but this was her first experience traveling with us.  For part of our stay, we went to Paris for several days. This was primarily to give us, including the baby, the opportunity to all stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, wearing berets.

The other important reason we went there was to provide Janelle with a first-hand experience with the way our family is able to create mayhem even in places where we cannot speak the language.  We didn’t fail her.  We experienced a roach baked into the French onion soup, a purse left in a cab, and ongoing “discussions” with the hotel management about charges for breakfasts not consumed.

We saved the best for last. We were a bit late packing up and getting out of the hotel. At one point, my son had to run several blocks to try to hail a cab, my daughter had to run back to the hotel to see if they could get us a cab more quickly,Janelle had to try to find my son when he seemed to disappear.  My job was to stand on the street corner with a bunch of suitcases, a baby stroller, a baby, and a sinking feeling that there was no way we would get to the station on time.

By some miracle, we all ended up in a cab with no time to spare.  In the cab on the way back to the train station for our return trip to London, my daughter realized that she left the baby car seat back at the hotel, (the hotel that has now probably posted a sign in the window saying “No More Americans, Please”).  We got to the station, consulted the wrong departure board, and arrived at the gate one minute after it closed.  We were told the next train would be leaving in one hour.  It took my son a long time to negotiate with them to allow us to take the next train at no additional cost.

This gave my daughter the outstanding idea of going back to the hotel to retrieve the baby car seat, an idea rivalling that of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.  She strapped the Snuggly with the baby in it onto Janelle and left the train station.  The minutes started to tick by with alarming speed.  Soon, we realized we were in danger of missing the second train.  My son stayed in the outer area to watch for my daughter, while Janelle and I tried to go through Customs, so at least three of us would get onto the Eurostar.

The ever-vigilant Customs Official noticed that Janelle had an 18 lb baby strapped to her body.  He motioned to the other Customs Officials.  They began to converge on Janelle.  I realized I had to find the baby’s passport very quickly.  By some miracle, the first bag I opened contained the baby’s passport.  I handed it to Janelle, who handed it to the Customs Official. Unfortunately, the bag also contained my daughter’s passport.  I now realized that if we went through Customs, my daughter wouldn’t be able to leave the country.  But that was a minor issue compared to what was now happening between Janelle and the increasingly larger and more concerned group of Customs Officials. 

The baby’s passport revealed that 1.The baby’s last name was different than both Janelle’s and mine. 2. The baby was a resident of the UK and we were residents of the US.  By now, all of the Customs Officials were engaged in watching Janelle try to explain who this strange baby was who was attached to her.  I took advantage of the mayhem to abandon both Janelle and my grandson in order to get back past Customs (a large, scary, international NO NO)  in order to hold up my daughter’s passport and wave it frantically to my son who was in the outer area.  While all this was going on, the baby occupied his time by getting seriously verbal about announcing that it was Feeding Time.  Unfortunately for him, there were no milk-producing breasts (either uniformed or non-uniformed) in the immediate vicinity.

With exactly 60 seconds to spare, my daughter came running into the Customs area, clutching the baby car seat over her head.  My son came running after her, clutching either his heart or his beret (It was impossible to tell).  The Customs Officials stood back as we all did a Keystone Cops version of “Toss the Passport/Luggage/Car Seat/Baby to the Appropriate Owner.”  We then entered the Eurostar train exactly as they closed the gate.

Neither my son-in-law nor my husband was there.  Had either of them been with us, none of this would have happened.  They are both sticklers for little things like organization and time management.  Personally, I’m glad they weren’t there.  They tend to avoid things like starting international incidents when they travel.  And that wouldn’t be any fun at all.