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The Plane Tickets

Sticker found in Ottawa, December 2015
Sticker found in Ottawa, December 2015

Most kids are into something and their passion for characters, animals or activities isn’t very subtle. A Spider-man suit, dinosaur tee-shirts, a Minion hat, princess dresses or stuffed Crazy Bird are usually a good clue. I could fill the “hobbies and interests” section of a resume for each kid in Mark’s class just by looking at them.

Mark is a little bit into Minions, a little bit into dinosaurs, a little bit into stars, a little bit into trucks and trains.

But he is into planes a lot.

Mid-October, we decided to renew his passport. Child travel documents are only valid for three years and he was a six-month-old chubby baby on the picture, you can hardly recognize him. It was time to let the world knew Mark was a proper little boy, and the passport was expiring soon anyway.

We picked Mark up early from daycare and drove to the small strip mall where there is both a photographer and Passport Canada offices. Mark was excited—he likes having his picture taken and of course, he enjoys the unexpected break in routine and attention from both Feng and I.

While we were waiting for the pictures to be printed, I showed him where we were going next, to the passport office.

“I know,” he replied. “We take plane.”

I suddenly realized he thought we were flying, like right away. Indeed, the passport office kind of looked like an immigration and border office with the glass booths.

“No, no!” I corrected. “We are not flying right now. We need a new passport for you first.”

Mark looked like he was about to cry.

“I want to go plane with mommy and daddy!”

“Not right now! We can’t! We… It’s… it’s raining outside!”


“Yes, look, big rain. That’s why we can’t fly.”

Kid’s logic and the kind of excuse Air Canada provides for delayed flights. It worked.

We applied for the passport and Mark understood that we were not about to fly out of the strip mall. Crisis averted.

But ever since that day, he has been talking about planes non-stop. Mark has a very good memory.

It wasn’t just the act of flying he was dreaming about, but also the destination. “I want to go beach”, “I want to take taxi after plane” and “I want to take pictures” were the usual answers when I was asking him why he wanted to fly.

A few weeks later, while I was talking to my parents on Skype, Mark climbed on a chair to look out the window and see if there were planes in the sky.

“Do you like planes, Mark?” my mom asked in English.


“Do you take planes?”

Her face suddenly became animated.

“I take plane with mommy and daddy. We sit, I look out the window and watch movie. We go to the beach,” he replied.

“Why do you take planes?” I asked.

I’m not sure why I phrased it that way. I wanted to say “Where do you go when you take the plane?” I think, but I was talking to my parents in French and Mark was speaking English and I got confused.

Mark paused. “I take the plane with mommy and daddy because mommy is not happy here.”


I froze.

He repeated.

I translated for my parents.

“No, no, we are doing fine!” I added. “Really. No big drama but for Mark’s tantrums. But I guess the routine isn’t so fun for him.”

I had a little chat with Mark later to explain that we were in fact happy most of the time, although we did get mad occasionally (I mean, who doesn’t when finding a huge cracker mess on the couch?) and we were tired at the end of the day. Mad, sad, happy… kids don’t always understand what’s going on. Hell, most adults don’t either.

It had only been four months since our six-week long trip to France in the summer. For us, four months is nothing. Time goes by fast when you’re busy and we’ve worked a lot. But for Mark, four months must feel like an eternity.

Or maybe I was projecting.

We were fine but I was tired and slightly overwhelmed. We had fun occasionally but most of the time, we were working hard. Feng and I had difficult conversations over the past few months over many things, including our life in Canada. Last summer, in France, we reached an agreement of sorts—we would make life as enjoyable as possible but our main goal in Ottawa was to work and save money… for whatever other life we wanted.

Meanwhile, Mark started to nag us regularly.

“I wanna go plane!”

“Not right now, Mark.”

“Okay, not now. Tomorrow? After dodo?”

“Mark… I’m sorry, but no. Maybe in a little while. After many dodos.”

“Two dodos? Three dodos. Okay, four dodos.”

“More than that, Mark.”



“But I want to go to the beach!”

“So do I, Mark. But mommy and daddy have to work.”

He didn’t understand that, of course. So we started making excuses he could understand.

“We can’t take the plane, silly! We don’t have plane tickets.”

It worked for a while then he asked Feng to buy tickets. Damn.

Meanwhile, Feng and I were still busy working but we also started to plan our next escape. We didn’t mention anything to Mark and didn’t speak about it in front of him.

“Is it appropriate to give a three-year-old a planet ticket for Christmas?” I joked one night. “Here is your next backpacking trip, from Santa with love!”

Well, we did just that. For Christmas, he got the Duplo plane… and a plane ticket.

So you like planes, Mark, eh? How about 16 hours of it?

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