So it was that spring when two grieving parents mustered the strength to shuffle onto an Orlando-bound plane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, with their 2-year-old son
in tow.

Actually, Logan was towing us. It wasn’t Logan’s first airplane flight — he had been with us on trips to Chicago and Hawaii the previous year. But the sunshine and surf of Oahu look like barren desert to a 2-year-old when compared to a trip to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the rest of the gang.

Logan was a bouncing ball of energy as he boarded the plane. I had enough frequent-flier miles to upgrade the three of us to first class, where a large number of financial professionals were sitting, on their way to a conference. Coincidentally, I would go on to become good friends with several of the people on the flight, but at that point, they only knew me as the dad of the small child whom they presumed was going to make the next two-plus hours of their lives a living hell of kicking, squirming, shrieking and heaven knows what else.

As we shimmied along the aisle to our seats, a woman in a business suit looked up from her newspaper and gave a sigh of disdain. Kelly and I made a running joke of it during the flight, mimicking her sigh to each other. But if that lady wanted a library-quiet flight, her agitation wasn’t unfounded. Logan was 2 ½. He was excited to be on a plane to Disney World. He did bounce around, he did make noise, and if you didn’t like to be around an excited child, this wasn’t your dream flight.

The tension in first class could have reached hair-trigger sensitivity if not for a couple of truly awesome flight attendants who spent the duration of the flight doting on Logan, helping us occupy his attention and burning up just enough of his massive energy reservoir to prevent him from bouncing off the inside of the fuselage like a pingpong ball.

For two hours, the flight attendants became his adopted big sisters, walking him up and down the aisle, bringing a little extra fruit with his meal and, in general, making Kelly and I feel a lot more comfortable playing the role of “that kid’s parents” with our fellow passengers.

****

We came in for our landing. Everyone was relatively silent in first class, waiting for the plane to touch down and arrive at the gate, so they could turn their cell phones back on. The plane touched down, decelerated to taxiing speed and rolled onto the tarmac. As soon as Logan became sure that we were on the ground and right on Mickey Mouse’s doorstep, he thrust his arm in the air and yelled, “Good job, airplane!”

A catchphrase was born. To this day, it’s still used in the Gale household.

Logan’s exclamation drew laughs throughout first class and made some fans out of the people who were grumbling under their breath at the sight of a bouncy toddler boarding the plane back in Cleveland.