didi and the milky way tradition.

I stumbled through the security line yawning, wondering if it was possible to be mentally hungover from a four-day writing conference. I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the airport window and regretted the 5:30am decision to not wear makeup.

With my feet planted on the rising escalator, I could feel hope waiting for me in the form of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. As soon as I stepped off the escalator, that hope was crushed with a simple sign typed on white paper:

Sorry for the inconvenience
the espresso machine is out of order

I sighed heavily and bought a bottle of water and a small box of Apple Jacks. I dragged my heavy suitcase to Gate B4 and practically tripped on a man’s legs as I found a seat at a charging table. A little girl sat next to me, his daughter. She was wearing patterned leggings with a light blue hoodie and brown suede boots. I could tell she was both stylish and smart.

I had been sitting for less than five minutes when the announcement came over the loudspeaker: “Due to a maintenance issue with the plane……” blah blah blah. I wasn’t surprised or shocked because every time I fly Delta, there is a problem. On the way to South Carolina, the first flight ran out of food and the second flight sat on the tarmac for roughly two hours. I almost started to laugh, in a delirious and crazy sort of way. Of course the flight is cancelled! Of course!

The little girl and I started chatting, bonding over our shared disappointment. I learned that she was flying to Atlanta with me, and then continuing on to Portland, where her mom would pick her up. She had been in Ashville visiting her dad, and was flying alone as an unaccompanied minor, a term she tossed around casually. Her name was Didi and she was in the fifth grade. She reminded me a lot of myself at that age, ten going on nineteen and such. We talked about school and her favorite subjects and her new baby sister.

I showed her a picture of Everett and her sweet eyes lit up.

“He is sooooooooo cute!!!”

We jokingly whined about our cancelled flights and overwhelming tiredness. I had been up since 5:30; she since 4:30. I told her about the broken espresso machine and she sighed and said she “understood”, a comment that made me smile.

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she confidently replied, “An actress.”

If you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I was ten, I would have offered you the same response. I told her that I was a writer. I didn’t stumble on the word as I normally do, but instead that title came pouring from my mouth just as confidently as her answer did. I guess I wanted her to know that it’s okay to want to be an actress when you’re ten, and then become a writer when you’re 27.

Her dad had been on the phone trying to reschedule her flight and finally informed me that they were going to drive the 2.5 hours to Atlanta. Before I knew what I was saying, I asked if I could join them. I assumed I’d be better off trying to get home from Atlanta than from the airport with the single broken espresso machine.

Didi looked at her dad excitedly, “Can we take her with us, Dad??? Please??”

I knew nothing about him, not even his name, but I knew this much: he was a good dad. And I was 99% sure he wasn’t a serial killer. We ventured downstairs to collect luggage while I called the Delta helpline. Soon I was booked on another flight, set to leave eight hours later. I was relieved to have a way home, but also sad for the lost opportunity to take a spontaneous road trip with Didi. We sat on the floor together and she opened her backpack, fishing out a tiny leftover goody bag from a birthday party. She held four pieces of candy in her hand and told me I could pick one.

“I’ll take the milky way,” I smiled.

“Are you going to eat it right now?” she asked.

“No, I think I’ll save it for later.” I winked at her and stuck the piece of candy in the front pocket of my backpack.

Her dad collected their luggage and I said goodbye to Didi, assuming I wouldn’t ever see them again.

Ten minutes later I wandered into the airport diner, determined to use the oh-so-generous $6 meal voucher. Much to my surprise, I spotted two tiny legs in familiar patterned leggings, dangling from a barstool at the counter. She was now wearing a pair of furry striped earmuffs that I had seen in her backpack just minutes before.

I plopped down next to Didi at the diner counter, happy to eat with my new friend.

We chatted some more about life and family, and I asked her what she was going to be for Halloween.

“I’m going to be a Renaissance Katy Perry,” she informed me.

(For those of you who also need clarification on this: Renaissance Katy Perry wears Renaissance clothing with a blue wig and fake eyelashes. Duh.)

Her dad was on and off his phone, occasionally listening in on our conversations. We all finished breakfast and just before it was time to part ways, Didi looked at me with a sudden sense of urgency.

“Wait! You have to eat your milky way! It’s tradition!” she said.

I laughed and asked if she had another milky way in her backpack. She dug around the plastic goody bag and fished out another one. We unwrapped them carefully together, smiling, not breaking eye contact.

I held mine out to her and said “Cheers!” as we clinked our milky ways together.

It was the perfect dessert to scrambled eggs and toast, that piece of friendship chocolate.  We hopped off our barstools, just in time for her dad to ask, “So, what do you write anyway?”

I told him that I write a blog about life and motherhood, and other things in between.

“Did you hear that Didi? You might end up being a story on her blog!”

Her little eyes sparkled again and she asked eagerly, “Do a lot of people read your blog?”

I nodded. Not because it’s necessarily true but because I knew it would make her feel special.

I said, “I think I’m going to write about our milky way tradition.”

“Really?!!!” she asked in disbelief. “Then I’ll be famous!!!” she exclaimed, wrapping her tiny arms around my waist.

Then she went her way, down the escalator, and I went mine, right back to the gate with the busted espresso machine. I opened my laptop and wrote this post, because I wanted to make Didi a tiny bit famous.


Didi, I don’t know if you will EVER read this. I don’t even know if I spelled your name right. Thank you for sharing your milky ways with me, and for making me smile on an otherwise miserable day stuck at the airport. I am so happy to have met you. You are smart, beautiful, and capable of doing big things in this world. It is my prayer for you today that God continues to use you for years to come as a source of joy to passengers in airports and beyond. Every time I see a milky way, I will always think of you.

Love, Ashlee

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36 Responses to didi and the milky way tradition.

  1. Katie says:

    Beautiful writing and a very sweet story!

  2. Christine says:

    Love love love. The best stories of travel are ALWAYS the people you meet.
    Christine´s last blog post ..The “perfect weekend in New York” itinerary

  3. Kara K says:

    You made a little girl’s day. You are special. You are kind.

  4. Such a sweet story. I hope Didi finds this someday.

  5. Melissa N. says:

    LOVE THIS!! Didi definitely is a special girl and I hope she reads this someday. Glad you made it home safe!

  6. Love it. Great gift. Sounds like some divine interventional type time. Or maybe response to time/opportunity.
    brett fish anderson´s last blog post ..Mark, my words: What do you want from me, blind man?

  7. Kelli B says:

    This is soooooooo sweet!!!! I will think of you and Didi whenever I see Milky ways now!

  8. Danielle says:

    I was able to get in touch with someone at Didi’s school who is going to share this post with her mother and let her mother share it with her. I hope they follow through!

  9. Amy says:

    That’s so sweet, Ashlee! Hate hear it took so long to get home but it looks like you had some blessings along the way 🙂
    Amy´s last blog post ..A Good Season

  10. Andrea says:

    There is so much to love here! Your wonderful story telling, and getting to learn about Didi. It strikes me how much good can happen when we put ourselves out there. Your long travel day (which I’m sure was exhausting) turned into a chance meeting with someone who I know will remember you for years to come. Hugs!

  11. lauren says:

    great story and an awesome experience! this is why i return to your blog for each post…i love the feeling that i was right there with you two – cheers-ing away with our milky way bars! 🙂
    lauren´s last blog post ..carving pumpkins.

  12. Amanda B. says:

    There needs to be more people in this world like you and Didi. Didi seems like a kind individual whom anyone would love to have the privilege to meet.

    ‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
    Come on, show ’em what you’re worth”

  13. This. Is. Amazing. There are two amazing songs (really even more, but two that stuck out) on Katy’s new album. Love Me and This Moment. Here’s hoping Didi is always herself. Here’s hoping she loves herself and lives her life to the fullest.

  14. Leslie Simon says:

    I have the pleasure of being Didi’s grandma. And, yes, you described the real Didi, the girl who never meets a stranger and will remember you and your conversation for years.
    Didi has had this special talent of making instant friends since she was a toddler.
    She lives in the moment, has boundless energy, and friends of all ages.

    We want to thank you for this lovely blog…. I will print it and keep it with my special memories. It is a perfect picture of Didi at this time in her life.

  15. Jen says:

    So very awesome Didi’s grandma posted to your blog!! Very very cool. Next time I have a Milky Way, I will do a cheers with it in honor of your new friend Didi!

  16. This story totally made me tear up, I sure hope she reads this!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures´s last blog post ..Ask Andi Anything + Giveaway (Part 9)

  17. Katie B. says:

    So sweet 😉
    Katie B.´s last blog post ..the 15/30 project: grow a garden

  18. Kimberly says:

    Loved it!!


    I love meeting people when I fly!
    Ashley // Our Little Apartment´s last blog post ..This Weeks’s Meal Plan: Comfort Food.

  20. Cara says:

    Ashlee!! I hope you made it home safely and sooner than you thought. It was such a blessing to meet you. I was secretly sad that we couldn’t spend our day together hopping from airport to airport bashing Delta airlines. I am so glad I can continue to connect with you on your blog. Please contact me when you make your way to Arkansas again! xo- Cara (your airport buddy)
    Cara´s last blog post ..notice me

  21. Jen says:

    Oh my gosh, Ashlee!! That is the sweetest story I have read in a long time and all because of your not so sweet morning. I’m glad God gave you a little fun and wonder wrapped up in a tiny girl package!
    Jen´s last blog post ..Release Your Expectations

  22. Holly says:

    Wow, Ashlee! Your gift of storytelling just gets better and better each time I visit your blog! What a sweet story – made even sweeter with Didi’s grandma visiting your blog as well 🙂

  23. Katie says:

    oh, this made my whole entire day! what a sweet story. I love how you write, Ashlee.
    Katie´s last blog post ..one week

  24. Bekah says:

    This is so special! I love that you use your gift in ways like this. So glad you shared this story.

    (Also, how cool that Didi’s grandmother found this blog! It really is a small world.)
    Bekah´s last blog post ..Dear Baby: Week 19

  25. dukeslee says:

    Oh my word. This is so precious. The post, the note to Didi at the end, and now Grandma in the comment box. All of it.

    I am glad to have crossed paths with you at Allume, and so glad I grabbed your business card. That’s what brought me here today.
    dukeslee´s last blog post ..#TellHisStory: The Hard Work of Getting Along

  26. Sarabell says:

    I’m so happy she got to see this! =]

  27. This is my favorite Allume story so far!! So, so sweet! Thank you for loving the person in front of you – what a great example to us all. I hope Didi gets famous! 🙂
    Erin @NaturallyErin´s last blog post ..A Chance to Breathe

  28. Amy says:

    And who knew your encounter with “stars” would begin this way? Beautiful. I wish our paths had crossed at Allume. Perhaps next year. You’ll be passing out Milky Ways~ yes?

  29. Renee / RLZN says:

    Aw, this is so incredibly sweet! Made me smile. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    x Renee
    Renee / RLZN´s last blog post ..7 Lessons

  30. hailey farris says:

    that was the sweetest story. your writing is beautiful. and didi, you sound like a wonderful ten year old.

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