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Hanna: Travel Gods

I am an expert travel planner. Monday afternoon: Fly from Washington D.C. to Burlington after a business trip. Pack family. Tuesday afternoon: Depart Montreal for Italy.

We’d planned to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday and our tenth wedding anniversary in Rome and Tuscany. Every detail meticulously planned.

Now, whenever I boast of my superior skills, my husband reminds me that the gods are surely laughing. And that’s because when I arrived at Reagan National that Monday afternoon, the sunny skies started to darken.


My plane was delayed, and delayed, and delayed. I got anxious and began sharing my worries with my fellow travellers as I obsessively checked radar on my cell phone.

About 7 pm the flight was finally cancelled and it was clear that no flights were coming or going from DC that night. All the morning flights out were already booked.

I couldn’t just meet my family in Rome because my husband probably couldn’t take the kids across the border. The Canadian government usually requires a consent letter from custodial parents. Plus, I had failed to buy travel insurance. So, I had to get home by noon the next day, or we’d miss our trip.

“I’m renting a car and driving all night,” I shouted loudly to no one in particular. “Anyone in?”

“I’ll go with you,” said a woman who’d heard my saga. We’d never met before. “In fact,” she said, “my son lives in DC. And he was going to drive up to join me in Vermont in a few days anyway.” After a brief call, she announced, “He’ll be here in an hour. Let’s get our bags and go.”

“Can I come too?” asked another woman with a Russian accent who’d overheard our planning. And off we went, three strangers into the night, each of us determined not to be victims of the airlines or the weather.

The son was a spirited and determined driver who refused any co-piloting for most of our ten-hour trip.

I couldn’t help but think of that scene from Home Alone , where Catherine O’Hara, in her desperate attempt to reunite with the son she’d left behind, hitches a ride with a traveling polka band. We didn’t sing polka songs, but we did swap stories and listen to talk radio and drift in and out of sleep as the son wove in and out of city traffic.

We crossed into Vermont just as the sun was rising, and the Russian woman was so struck with the beauty that we stopped and took a picture.

Then Mom got behind the wheel, and it was clear that spirited driving was a family trait.

They dropped me off at 6:30 am, with just enough time to pack the family and begin the next adventure.

And as I stood before the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, I offered my thanks. Because even if these Roman gods had been laughing at my hubris, they had also sent a few mortal heroes to rescue me.

The late Cheryl Hanna was a professor at Vermont Law School in Royalton.
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