I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life in airports.
And I still contend there is something magical about them.
They sweep us up and out of ourselves; a moment of complete suspension, between one reality and another. And we see more reflected in the windows than the neon lights dangling above the sunrise. We see snapshots of life played out in the full spectrum of human emotions. Shades of love, sorrow, and reunion that sinew around the heart and squeeze the breath out of lungs no matter how many times the scenes have played out before. Every time they unfold it’s like the first time. Because for someone it is. And for someone else it still feels as vivid as the first time, even when it’s the hundredth.
I spent 36 hours in three different airports this weekend. And aside from the multiple delays and missed flights, the experience did not disappoint.
There was the dad-chaperone travelling with a crew of four teenage girls en route to a missions trip. Watching him shepherd them while trying to balance their independence was a delight. They walked the same tightrope of hope as the rest of us stand-by travellers, but there’s was louder and more rewarding to watch. Two flights came and went without them. Every time names were read they clutched each other with bright green fingernails, sighed and wished and groaned when they were passed by.
But when their father-figure fist pumped and announced he had got them on the second to last flight of the night their joy was delicious. They whooped and leaped and hugged and high fived. I was almost glad they had taken the five remaining seats standing between me and home. Almost.
There was the mom travelling home to Baltimore after a week in Jamaica. Not for vacation, but for a funeral. And her husband would be driving out at midnight with their two daughters in the back seat to pick her up. So when tired mothers came traipsing by with their kids wrapped close in tow, I looked at her and knew her arms felt as lonely as mine.
There were the proud parents of a deeply asleep 21-month old boy who whispered to me in the dark confines of the aircraft about their weary journey from Venezuela. The dad’s red-rimmed eyes warmed into mine and I recognized what I saw there. The look of deep love for a child. The look of a parent who expects everyone else to realize the miracle that exists in his child. So I did. I whispered back how beautiful the boy was and how well he had travelled. And the dad grinned quietly in the dark.
There were other moments too. The sleeping on the floor, the recognition that my bones have aged since they were last stranded like that, and the pure, gut-wrenching frustration of hour after hour of lonely delays. But those were an aside, rather than the main story.
And the main story is always about relationships. The good, the bad, and the desperately beautiful. So, I chose to read those. And I love that you read along. Thank you for being a part of my story. Thank you for making me laugh, providing geography lessons, and encouragement. In all my years of travel, you were a first for me this time, twitter. I love that you walked me all the way home to my happy ending, which, through tired eyes, might have looked a bit like this.