11/28/2012 05:55 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

Mom Steps Out

My body is in L.A. but my head is somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea. I landed in L.A. after 31 hours of traveling from the Middle East, with stops on three continents along the way and now, four days later I am slowly making my way West. My body feels like a lead weight and my mind is fuzzy, but I am here and each day a bit clearer. It didn't help at all that California switched from daylight savings time to standard time a day after I returned. To recover, one needs a day for each time zone and I am 11 time zones away from my journey's start, so I think that by some time next week my body and mind will be back in L.A.

I don't really mind long plane trips. I begin to relax when I get in the taxi that takes me to the airport. That's when I relinquish control -- I don't drive the taxi and I don't fly the plane, so I am forced to relax. For years I "helped" the pilot fly the plane by staying vigilant and awake. I don't do that any longer, but I have not mastered the art of sleeping on flights -- not even on the red-eye. I set myself up with my noise canceling headphones, chapstick, tissues, glasses, gum and reading material. I catch up on my movie watching and this trip I exhausted the "grown-up movies" so I resorted to watching the animated ones. At home I am always "on" as the caretaker of my disabled husband, the family, the animals, the house and everything else. On a long flight I am not responsible for anyone but myself, and that is liberating.

I always arrive at the airport in plenty of time because you never know how long the lines will be. Even with comfortable advance time, I have destroyed several silk blouses while sweating out the zigzag of a security line, wondering if I will make my flight. Knowing I will be sedentary for a long time in the plane, I roam the airport terminal's corridors before lining up for my flight. The departure terminal is an exciting place with many exotic locations posted at the departure gates and people speaking languages that I don't understand. Although I don't understand a word of many of the languages spoken, I always try to decipher their origin and the region of the world they represent by the lilts and sounds made by the speakers.

Once the flight begins I prefer to minimize my trips to the plane's restrooms, so as I roam the terminal prior to boarding I visit each restroom I encounter. I have to admit that getting myself and my hand luggage in and out of the stalls is a maneuver worthy of a contortionist. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only halfway intelligent person on earth who has trouble in airport bathrooms. Oftentimes I am stuck with soap on my hands because the handle-less sinks don't turn on when I wave my hands under them. I also can never plan the timing of the automatic toilets correctly and receive an unexpected bidet-like spray before I've finished my business.

Once I am on the plane I plan my trips to the restroom with care. I wait till the "vacant" symbol is illuminated and there's no line. As I make my way to the restroom someone always manages to step out right in front of me and enters the restroom so I am forced to stand in the aisle and wait -- something I conscientiously try to avoid. Inevitably when it is my turn, the plane experiences the worst turbulence of the flight and flashing lights indicate that one should "return to seat." My dilemma is always should I continue my business or return to my assigned seat?

Before leaving for a trip I prepare copious notes for my family so that the household will run smoothly in my absence. I leave schedules in several locations. I stock the refrigerator, and fill the cars with gas. I leave emergency numbers of friends, doctors and neighbors and notify key people that I will be out of town. Inevitably when I return I find the cars are running on fumes, the refrigerator is empty, the mail and garbage are piled high and there are many (this time only 14) messages on the home phone.

Most importantly, everyone survived my absence -- husband, sons and cats. I am greeted with joy by all! Hoorah! Mom is home, and considering that she just had a week off, all will once again be well in the world -- food, fuel, and a clean litter box.