Thunderstorms raged outside the Newark airport terminals the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, stopping all planes from landing or taking off for more than two hours.
It was hard to see through the raindrops that coated the terminal windows. Only the random lightning flashes revealed the empty planes sitting on the runway.
I knew a storm like this would mean flight cancellations. As the daughter of a flight attendant, I knew that would mean I’d lose the chance to get a seat on my plane.
But this time I got lucky.
Tired travelers with multicolored neck pillows and tangled headphones meandered through the terminals as the delays stretched closer to midnight.
But when ticket agents called all standby passengers for an announcement, I gripped my passport and rushed to the gate.
Once they handed me a boarding pass with my name on it, it was official: I’d be flying to Limerick, Ireland, for St. Patrick’s Day.
My mom, Angela, who has worked as a flight attendant for almost 30 years, had signed up to work the flight to Ireland weeks in advance.
I, on the other hand, had waited until the very last minute to finalize my travel plans. Refreshing the airline app obsessively throughout the week, I watched the seating options — and my hopes — go up and down.
There were no seats available Tuesday, and the numbers slipped into the negatives by Wednesday and Thursday afternoon.
But the last time I checked — just six hours before takeoff — seven seats had opened up.
That sounded like a lucky number to me. I threw some essentials into a backpack, and we drove up together.
My mom was just as excited when she saw me rushing down the jet bridge like someone still might take my ticket away.
“Welcome aboard,” she said.
My mom has always loved to travel, and I’ve always admired how hard she worked before her flight attendant career took off.
She started in 1980 working in the office at Bader Field in Atlantic City. That’s actually where she met my dad, who loaded luggage at the time on the runways as a “ramp rat.”
She hasn’t stopped traveling since. I remember forgetting as a kid if she was in Denver or San Francisco. It had to be one of those two, but she could’ve been anywhere in the country. Now that she regularly flies international flights, I forget if she’s in Barcelona or Rome.
Our plane landed in Ireland to even more rain about 10 a.m. I looked out the window at gray skies, but some of the brightest green countryside I’d ever seen.
Refusing to let my head touch a pillow in the hotel and risk sleeping through the entire day, I set out to start a 24-hour layover in the city.
It was raining when I walked through the local market and climbed the stone staircases of King John’s Castle. I walked through different levels of the 800-year-old fortress, trying to picture what it was like in the 13th century and trying not to compare it to “Game of Thrones.”
The River Shannon that runs through the city flowed so fast I wondered if I’d see some river surfers that jump in at other European cities.
When my mom woke up to join me, the sun came out long enough for us to see a rainbow stretch across it.
We almost bought a pair of boots at a thrift store, found a tavern-style restaurant and watched fireworks launch into the air from our hotel roof.
Because of that trip and so many others, I’m forever grateful for my mom. She never gave up her dream of travelling, and now she’s been able to share so much of it with my siblings - Kristine, Stephanie and Michael- and me.
We’ve been to countless states. We even went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. When I left to study abroad in Milan, she was the one giving the safety demonstration.
My mom even pinned a pair of wings on my twin sister, Kristine, who just started her own career as a flight attendant.
And if there’s anything all these years have taught me, it’s to adapt.
We never fly without at least six back-up plans — finding later departure times, taking alternate routes, splitting up or even choosing different destinations altogether.
Because there have been times when we weren’t so lucky.
When we tried a family trip to Walt Disney World, our luggage got on the plane and made it back to New Jersey, but we didn’t.
More recently, we camped out in the Honolulu airport for more than 15 hours getting turned down from gate to gate after a rainstorm struck the West Coast. We made it home — my father, Mike, and I through San Francisco, and my sisters through Denver.
But while I’ve sat in the back row’s middle seat more times than I would have liked, the trips are always worth it. The neck aches fade away, but the memories don’t.
Even though we had to leave Sunday morning before a large-scale St. Patrick’s Day parade was set to walk through the streets of Limerick, I left feeling like I had seen most of the small city.
And that’s always good, because there are more cities to explore, as long as I’m back to work on Monday.