Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

When it comes to family vacations, expect the unexpected

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 25, 2015

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” certainly rings true—and if family is involved, that goes double. The story began when my sister invited my aunt, my cousin and me to her birthday party in Kansas.

I agreed to make the online reservations and carefully chose seats so the three of us would sit together on the flight to Wichita. My cousin would arrive from Tampa, my aunt from Daytona, and I would meet them in the Atlanta airport.

The plan was that my sister and her husband would stay with his daughter, who lives near them, thus vacating their bedroom for my cousin and aunt—and I would have the guest room with a bathroom right across the hall.

As for the airport rendezvous, we decided that my aunt, my cousin and I would call each other on our cell phones when we got there.

On the big day my husband drove me to the airport, where I quickly checked my bag, then scurried to security where I was relieved to see the line was short—until I realized it snaked back and forth around various corners—and was actually six times the length it first appeared.

What if we didn’t make the plane on time? What if we didn’t meet each other as planned? What if, what if? I told myself to calm down, everything would be fine. Trust in the Lord, and go with the flow.

After getting through security, I lunged for the underground train that took me to terminal D, where the plane going to Wichita would be landing. I then put our plan into action by dialing Aunt Rita’s phone—which immediately went to voicemail.

2015 06 25 GB MURRAY When it comes to family vacations, expect the unexpectedTried it again. Same result. A third time and my anxiety was spiking to dangerous levels.

I finally managed to locate an airline agent who told me my aunt’s gate number, then took the blasted train back to terminal A, raced up the escalator and walked the length of two football fields to find her.

“Your phone isn’t on,” I said when I finally spotted her.

“I don’t think it gets service in the airport,” she replied calmly.

I didn’t want to argue about technology, since I had to find my cousin Julie whose plane had just arrived at the other end of the terminal, which seemed to be growing longer by the minute.

Why couldn’t I live in a smaller city with an airport that wasn’t the size of a planet? I wondered—but there was no time to answer this. Instead, I galloped through the crowd, and when I finally spotted Julie, I sputtered, “Hurry! Time is running out!”

When we arrived at the proper gate 30 minutes before take-off, I announced “We made it” to my relatives with the same triumphant note you might expect from someone who had just scaled Mount Everest.

Moments later, however, the airline agent said there was mechanical difficulty and the flight would be delayed. In the end, we sat in the airport for nearly four hours—and when we got on a new plane, we couldn’t sit together.

We arrived safely, though—that’s the main thing—and headed to my sister’s house. Here is where the original plan took a different turn as I discovered that some of her children and grandchildren would be bunking down in the living room—along with Bowzer the dog.

This meant a dozen people would be vying for two bathrooms, which was a slightly different scenario than I had envisioned. Still, Aunt Rita took it all in stride. “We had one bathroom for eight people when I was a child,” she remarked.

There was plenty of chaos during the visit—Bowzer repeatedly attacking his favorite cushion, a little nephew trying to scale the rock-studded walls above the fireplace—but ultimately it all worked out.

In the mornings the crowd ate oatmeal together and in the evenings we played board games. And one day we took a trip to a candy store called “The Nut House,” a title that provided plenty of laughs.

As for me, once I surrendered to the flow of events, I had a downright good time. True, my plans for the trip had gone somewhat awry, but ultimately I realized that they were –like all of life—in bigger hands than mine.


Lorraine Murray’s latest comical mystery is “Death Dons a Mask,” featuring a wild and wacky cast of characters at St. Rita’s church in Decatur. Artwork is by Jef Murray. Readers may email the Murrays at