One year, long ago on an American island far away, the Lippitt family decided to use a timeshare. The experience was good. Until we left. The year was 2001 and it was two months past September and the terrorist attack in the United States. Not the best timing.
We were in a hurry to catch the plane as usual, and there was a scramble as all the kids tried to stuff stuff into their suitcases. Since they were old enough to do the stuffing themselves and suffer the consequences of their shopping sprees, we let them do it. It’s a lesson I am still learning; I usually travel with more baggage than I need, a habit picked up from trips home when the suitcase wouldn’t close.
When we got to the airport, security was, to put it mildly, tight. Before we boarded we had to pass by soldiers in camouflage gear toting large guns. If they wanted to hide, the jungle might have been a better choice for their suits, as the camo gear didn’t exactly blend in with the setting. But, combined with the large firearms, they did impress the kids. That is, until Sam, the last straggler, tried to get past the last checkpoint. He passed the metal detector, but failed the pat-down.
I should have noticed the bulge in his shorts, but they were so baggy, they escaped my scrutiny. When the woman at the scene asked him what was in his pockets, Sam replied, “Nothin’.”
“Oh, there’s somethin’,“ was the reply, whereupon Sam sheepishly pulled out a sock and a pair of his underpants that he’d discovered under his bed as we exited our condo.
Upon further pat-down, another bulge, albeit small, was detected. With the soldiers leaning in for examination and the woman demanding to see it, Sam nervously pulled out a small rock with a smiley face painted on it. Most of the kids had purchased hats and T-shirts, but Sam just had Herbert The Rock. I should have remembered Herbert because our son took it/him everywhere, including the pool, where he practiced saving it from the depths.
Perhaps it was the look of panic on his face when Sam faced the possibility of being parted from Herbert that finally eased suspicion. At the very least, it eased the look on the soldiers’ faces and likely gave them the first smothered smile of the day. Sam and Herbert were allowed to pass.
Herbert was replaced in his snug little hiding place along with the socks and underwear and no doubt enjoyed the flight home. Sam, his buddy close by and secure, sure did.
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”