| Under 18 Minutes |


A single moment can make all the difference between chometz and matzah, between success and failure. They raced the clock — and beat it!

Maybe it’s because I’ve had quite the journey with feeding my newborns, nursing for weeks and watching diapers like a hawk, waiting for signs they’re eating enough, gaining enough weight, and thoroughly satisfied. Or maybe it’s the mere fact that I’m a mother, and my ears are well attuned to the sounds of a baby’s cry. Whatever the reason, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the wails of hungry babies — so much so, that my husband knows if I’m around a hungry baby, especially one whose mother seems unaware of the distress, I can’t seem to mind my own business.

So it’s really no wonder that the first thing I noticed as we walked up to the gate late that Friday morning was a very unhappy newborn.

We were traveling home from out of town with several children in tow; the plan was to arrive with enough time before Shabbos to bathe and shower and throw some food in the oven. For the first time ever in the history of our family’s travels, we arrived at the airport with ample time until our flight, made it through security with ease, received our stroller and car seat tags, and were seated at our gate right away.

I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief and relax until boarding time. But there was the baby, crying hard, and his mother trying desperately to calm him.

“He’s hungry,” I said to my husband. “I hope she’s going to feed him!” But the baby continued to cry, and the mother continued to shush, patting and bouncing and rocking to no avail. The tension was rising, and my heartbeat with it, when I looked over once more and saw the baby’s mother filling a plastic water bottle with formula, then attempting to feed her son from its spout.

I knew immediately that the baby couldn’t drink at the pace of a plastic water bottle, and in spite of myself, I jumped up.

“I’m going over there,” I muttered to my husband. I’m generally a “keep to myself” kind of person, shy and uncomfortable around new people. But the hungry baby’s cries trumped any insecurities I may have had.

I walked over and asked the desperate young mother whether she needed a bottle or anything else.

She told me that she’d somehow packed the bottle in her suitcase instead of her carry on, and that she’d stopped nursing right after her son was born. She said she was hoping to get him back to sleep, and as soon as she arrived in Atlanta and got her luggage, she’d pull out the bottle and feed him.

I don’t know what was worse — the thought of a hungry baby waiting for food on a two-hour flight to Atlanta, or the thought of myself on the plane with a hungry baby when there was nothing I could do about it.

I immediately offered to find someone in the airport who had a bottle, to which she responded I was more than welcome, but she’d tried, to no avail. It was a secular holiday, so the small airport was indeed empty. Even so, I figured I’d try my luck.

I walked around the airport attempting to find anyone with a toddler or baby, but there was no one who fit the bill. I asked the security agents whether there was any store in the airport where I could possibly find a bottle, but there wasn’t.

I returned to the gate to a still crying baby and a very harried mother. By this time, everyone at the gate was watching the drama.

I walked over to my husband. “Is there a CVS near the airport?” I asked him. He looked on his GPS, and sure enough, there was one only five minutes away.

“I’ll go,” he said right away. “I’ll take an Uber there and back, and I’ll be fine.” We looked at the clock. It was 15 minutes until boarding time. That left about five minutes for each direction, and five minutes in the store.

“We close the gates 20 minutes before departure,” the clerk said when my husband asked for some leeway.

After consulting with the young mother, we decided to go for it. I needed to give my husband a crash course in baby bottles. The thing is, if you combine the estimated listening abilities of men with the amount of words I was speaking per minute, I realized the chances of him processing what I said were very, very low.

“Just any that says newborn!” I called after him, giving up on the slow, medium, or fast flow explanation. He ran to catch his Uber, and texted me that if he missed the flight he’d find another one home before Shabbos. He was running, while we stayed to watch the clock. So much for a calm trip home!

After jumping in the Uber, it took him five minutes to get there, four minutes in the store, and six minutes to make it back. He made it through security just as our aisle was called to board.

The mother was deeply grateful, her eyes welling up with tears as my husband refused her money for the Uber. “You have no idea what kind of day it’s been,” she told us. We could only imagine.

We boarded the flight with our hearts pounding, sweaty but smiling. We were grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to help someone whose need was clear cut; grateful to have succeeded and made it in time, and grateful to have made what we hoped was a kiddush Hashem.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 736)

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