The Baby Flight

The Baby Flight

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Baby Flight

I had never held a deformed infant in my arms before.

In fact, I had never even seen a deformed infant before. Now I found myself delivering three tiny orphans to their adoptive parents on Christmas Eve.

I taught English in Korea. College students rioted and succeeded in closing the college where I taught. Fed up, I desired to go home. A friend informed me of the “baby flights,” a program whereby one can travel from Korea to the U.S. dirt cheap. But there was a hitch. The traveler must transport three orphans. The alternative was to pay the full fare.

I found myself boarding a plane with three infants, aged 3 months, 7 months and 18 months. They came with runny noses, wet diapers and colds. As the plane took off, the poor kids howled. The plane vibrated violently and all the babies quieted. Seconds later, the plane stopped shaking and in unison the babies howled. The passengers burst into laughter.

One thing disturbed me. One of the infants was a deformed dwarf. Her massive head with disproportionately minute arms and fingers shocked me. I wondered if her new parents realized what they had coming. But the one on my lap was wet and the milk formula was low. I rapidly learned how to clean a wet bottom, put on a new diaper and stick a pacifier in an open mouth.

Two American soldiers asked if they could each hold a baby.

“No problem,” I said and they both walked off with a baby.

I sat there holding the baby with the very large head. She blinked her long gorgeous eyelashes and smiled. Funny how things like that can change you. From that point on she radiated beauty, and never left my arms.

Before landing in Tokyo, the soldiers handed back the babies. I clung onto my baby and one at a time changed the diapers of the two babies the soldiers had just handed me. As I pulled off their clothes, single dollar bills fell to the floor. I glanced at the departing soldiers. One of them blurted, “Little buggers are gonna need all the cash they can get. Merry Christmas!”

By now I had developed a strong bond with my baby. I even named her Tina. The more I thought about giving her to someone else the more I worried about her prospective parents.

While waiting in the terminal I noticed a young attractive Asian woman pacing back and forth near me. She stared at the babies and me and then walked off. Finally she spun around and confronted me, “Are they orphans?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I was one of them 24 years ago. May I hold one?”

The lovely woman took the noisiest one of the lot. She carried the child on the plane for the next leg of our journey, and she cared for the infant for the rest of the flight. Occasionally she’d show up and lend a hand feeding or changing the others when she could. After two more stops and a total of 27 hours, the plane landed. New parents rushed in and sped off with two of the babies. I still held Tina and it seemed like nobody was coming on board for her. Worried that no one wanted her I trudged off the plane. Then I saw them and stopped, unable to move. Little hands of a dwarf couple reached up to me.

As I passed Tina down to them, she said “Oma” to me. That means mom in Korean. At that point, I sat and cried.

I watched the delighted tiny family walk off to a new life and thought, “How perfect.”

But the next year I paid the full fare. The baby flight was too expensive.

Paul Karrer

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