Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

cram_halfWe were at the noisy stage of life. Skip, the oldest of our four children at 10½, was going through a difficult phase, and it occurred to me that he and I needed to spend some time alone together, apart from his sisters and the demands of a household.

Skip’s godparents in North Carolina had been begging us to come for a visit. They lived in a woodsy area about 75 miles from Raleigh, along with their two dogs, Mouse and Gina.

Mouse, shaggy and lovable, had been rescued from an abusive owner whose beatings left the dog with a crushed leg. Gina was a sweet, elderly dog who was mostly blind. We had no animals at our house unless you counted the occasional goldfish that managed to survive our pathetic nurturing skills, so a household with two dogs sounded like heaven to an active young boy.

Together, he and I brainstormed. Realistically, I could only get away for three or four days. Since the distance ruled out driving, we set about searching for inexpensive flights.

Yeah, right.

This was 15 years ago, before the Internet made such research quick and easy, so I resorted to the old-fashioned method. I called individual airlines.

Continental Airlines offered a "special" price of $473 per person, which was more than our entire budget. Surely other airlines would offer better deals. (How do I know this? I kept journals for my kids from birth till early adolescence, and I wrote this into Skip’s journal.)

United Airlines’ best fare was $591. American’s was $622. Delta came in at a whopping $780 per person.

I was crushed. I’d been praying about it and was pretty sure that the trip was God’s will for us, especially since Skip and I really needed the time together. Without a cheap airfare, however, the trip would be impossible. So why was I running into barricades?

I did not give up. Every week or two I called the airlines, hoping to stumble upon a special fare. Nevertheless, the best price remained a stubborn $473.

"Am I wrong about this, Lord?" I implored one day. "Because if this trip is your will, I can’t do it without your help. Will you help us? Please?"

Spurred by my prayer, I picked up the phone and called Continental. Still $473.

One evening just weeks before our hypothetical trip, the kids and I were sitting in the kitchen, eating dinner.

Suddenly, I had an insatiable desire to call Continental. Right then.

"But we’re eating!" I thought. "We never use the phone during dinner."

The impulse persisted. Could this be the prompting of the Holy Spirit? If so, the children would have a front row seat to observe God’s generous provision.

Still unsure, I said tentatively, "Um, kids, this is going to sound really weird, but I have this feeling that I should call the airline right now. Do you mind if I get up from the table to call?"

Four little faces shined up at me, fascinated and a bit unnerved by this odd request.

"O.K., Mom," they replied.

When a Continental Airlines representative answered the phone (remember those days?), I explained that I wanted to make reservations for a three-day trip from Hartford to Raleigh for two people, on such-and-such dates.

The representative’s sweet Southern drawl made me smile. "Well, ma’am, right now we have a special deal available. Let me just check the price."

I covered the mouthpiece and whispered to the kids that there was a special deal. We waited expectantly.

"Oh yes," she continued "Here it is. Our special round trip fare from Hartford to Raleigh/Durham is . . . $512."

$512? That was a deal?

Defeated, I thanked the agent for her help and prepared to hang up. Just then, she blurted, "Oh, wait. I may have another fare…"

Again I held my breath.

"I might be able to help you…Oh dear. I’m sorry, ma’am. It only applies if you’re flying to Charlotte or Raleigh. Where did you say you’re flying?"

"Raleigh."

"Oh," she continued. "I’m afraid not, ma’am. It’s only good if you travel for three days and over a weekend. How long did you say you’d be gone?"

"Three days, over a weekend," I replied, my pulse quickening.

I glanced at the children, their sweet faces gazing at me with hope.

Finally she gave her verdict. "Oh, ma’am, I am so sorry."

I let out the breath I’d been holding without realizing it.

"Ma’am, I am sorry," she repeated. "I have only two tickets left. How many tickets did you say you need?"

"Two."

Brightening, she added, "Did I mention that the tickets are $99 apiece?"

Is God awesome or what?

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.