From the start let’s get one thing clear – I am the last of nine children.
This is where you would say… ‘WHOA! Nine?!?’ Then you ask me some awkward question pertaining to procreation and frequency of parental interactions, of which I would uncomfortably say, ‘Uh-huh’. Eventually you move on to something more meaningful, such as, ‘what was it like growing up in such a huge family’. And that, my friend, is where we begin.
All of us McShains came from the same two people: Mama & Papa McShain. They are amazing and wonderful and loving and inspiring and so much more. However, they are NOT rich. And no, I didn’t have any benevolent grandparents showering me with gifts and birthday money. My lovely grandmothers passed away when I was young and I never knew my grandfathers, both having passed before I was born. So my darling parents were left to foot the bill on their own for nearly 4 decades of child rearing. The price of raising a child has not exactly declined in that time period.
In 1970, three years after my oldest sister was born, the average cost to raise a child to the age of 17 was about $50,000. Today the average cost of raising a child to 17 in a house bringing in less than 50K a year is almost $150,000. Having a second child, however, is reported to decrease that cost by about 20%. Having a 3rd, 4th, and so on, incur similar percentage decreases. I don’t know if there’s been a study to figure out how much a 9th little one would run. I believe it might’ve cost the same as a baby bamboo plant. Which, ironically, could eventually substitute as a toy later on. Money saved!
The point is that we weren’t living a life of luxury. Which is why when an Etihad Airways receptionist, unbeknownst to me, switched my fiancé and my economy tickets to Pearl Business Class I was a little skeptical. We were flying to Sri Lanka for Spring Break and like all previous flights I had ever taken, and like all previous McShains, we did not fly first class. At least not the McShains I grew up around.
I quickly collected the tickets and shuffled Janae to the security gate expecting problems. Alas, we get to the ticket and passport checkpoint – the first line of airport security and defense – and they informed us Janae’s bag was too heavy. I knew it! I knew it was too good to be – Wait? What’s that? We get to go through a private security area for business travelers? Awww yeah!
The Business class security was red carpets and smiles all the way. I don’t know if I had to take off my shoes but if I did I couldn’t tell. I was floating on air. At the gate, it was straight to the front of the embarkation line. We passed by the weary mothers and their snot-nosed complainers. We also passed by their small children.
We sat down having traveled less than 4 steps down the aisle, and were instantly greeted by Haruko, an inimitable Japanese man. He couched very close to us. Here it is, I thought. Here’s the moments he tells us we’re in the wrong seats. I began gathering my things in a very bitter fashion when he asked, ”Would you like a refreshment to begin your journey?”
YES! YES I WOULD! CHAMPAGNE PLEASE!
After regaining his hearing from my over-excited drink request, he politely retrieved our bubbly and placed them on a secret table designed for just an occasion. This was gonna be good.
The flight got under way and Haruko offered us an aperitif before our dinner. I didn’t not take him up on it. While I sat sipping my beverage, I barely felt the engine pull onto the runway. The slight rumble of the tires retreating into the underbelly of the plane was hushed by the massage component of our seats, which were pleasantly reclined in my opinion. Although later I found out I had not even scratched the surface of my recliner’s abilities to recline. 15 minutes into the air, and down my seat went… but not to sleep. I would not waste a moment of this glorious upgrade.
The food was scrumptious, the drinks flowed like wine from the beaches of capastrana, and oh, yeah, Janae was good company too. Did I tell you about the reclining seat? I was basically lying down. Like a bed. I was in a bed in the sky. A bed with a butler… named Haruko… who was Japanese. Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh. Business class.
Eventually, as do all good things, we landed and the flight doors opened. But despite the singular tear that fell from my right eye, as I looked back at the seat that had embraced me so compassionately, a thought inspired hope within me. And so, as I hugged Haruko firmly and gently slipped a tip into his back bottom pocket I left the plane high-spirited. One day, maybe not for some time, maybe years from now, I would be back. I would strut past security, amble coolly through the boarding gate, and I would sit down in my business class seats. And yes, I would sip champagne in a seat that both reclined AND massaged…
And maybe Janae would be there too.