Last week, my husband and I were crazy enough to fly to Prague for a vacation with all three kids. (We had a blast, so to all those parents who are afraid to go on vacation with children — just do it!)

We boarded the plane, four-year-old, two-year-old, and six-month-old in tow, trying to remain impervious to the looks we were getting. Basically, one face after the other took one glance at us and wordlessly begged: “Please don’t put this family near me.”

Well, their prayers may have been answered, but Nina’s were not.

We plopped down on seats 48E, F, and G, and the lady sitting in 48D turned to us. “Don’t ask me to move,” she said, pulling a hand through her plum-colored hair, and displaying a mouthful of gold teeth. “This is my seat, and I won’t be moved from here.”


My first instinct was to say, “Okay, kids, come sit near this nice lady. Mommy and Tatty are going to sit at the back of the plane, and if you need anything, just ask this nice grandma.”

I restrained myself. “Of course, this is your seat, don’t worry.”

By the time the plane took off Nina (she shared her name) saw that the kids were being fairly well behaved and even made a stray comment that they were sweet.

That’s all it took for us to launch into conversation. Nina was in her seventies, she told me, and came from Moldova. She and her husband had always wanted to move to Israel, leaving Moldova behind. There, the work was very hard and salary low, she told me, but they could not leave her old aunt, who was dependent on them. Thirteen years ago, Nina’s aunt died and they made plans to move to Israel.

Two weeks after they arrived, Nina’s husband didn’t wake up in the morning.

For 13 years, Nina had been living alone in Israel. Although she had one daughter, she barely spoke of her, and she didn’t have many friends. By the time the plane landed Nina was already fussing about my baby (she’s too cold, too hot, hungry, etc.) and rummaging in her handbag looking to see if she had a treat to give my older kids. We landed, and before we disembarked, she told me sincerely, “This flight was so enjoyable, thank you so much!”

What had I done? Just smiled. Listened. Shushed my four-year-old who kept asking, “Mommy, why does the lady have gold teeth?”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 613)