I’ve been traveling all day, from my original home in the Boston area, back to my current and forever home in the Seattle area. It is about a 12 hour trip, or more, with drives to each airport (rental cars to return, luggage, security) and home (1.5 hr drive, without traffic, on the Seattle end). It is a day that involves waking in one bed (my nephew Z’s) and finally sleeping in my own again, and switching from one emotional and physical world to an entirely different one on the other end. The distance probably helps frankly. As I went through each phase of the trip today, my head gets an opportunity to begin the process of processing the switch.
I have to say, I am a pretty lucky woman. I am someone who craves adventure and change, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot. Not everyone can say that, and I am grateful every day for what I have. When I get on a plane, I truly switch over to another mindset. I leave my responsibilities (taking care of my kids, my husband, our life), the things that are expected of me at home, the demands and benefits. I don’t miss it much while I’m away but I let it go in waves, as I travel from point A to point B.
Going home, the place where I grew up, however, was an entirely different can of worms. As I left Boston today to return to Bellingham, it was so much harder to let go of my past and move back in to the place where I live now. Old friends, who knew me “when” linger in my thoughts, bringing out a me that doesn’t live in Washington state. They knew me when: I was younger; finding my way, and then another way (and another); dating my first boyfriend; trying to make my way in the social stratospheres of high school and college; wondering what I’d be one day; dancing like a fool; waiting tables; fretting over weight, hair, who likes me, who doesn’t, school, love, lost love, blah blah; they knew me when I was becoming, who I am today. Being with those people, in those places again, was a real trip; leaving it to come back to who I am, was not an easy journey.
The entire week was mish mash of old and familiar and often feeling completely turned around. Ironically, even my faithful companion, my navigation, found all the new rotaries (round abouts to some of you) confusing and seemed to send me the wrong way each time. Her counting was horribly off and as I headed for the airport to leave, I literally entered the same rotary in Winchester 4-5 times to figure out which “4th exit” she actually meant. It was the 2nd. I felt equally turned around emotionally. I spent the week immersed in all that old history, all those old connections (as well as the new ones made this week at my reunion). An emotional mine field of some of the happiest days of my life and some of the hardest… each moment I was there, I felt unsure of which mines I’d set off. Old crushes that just aren’t there anymore; friends that changed and friends that are wonderfully the same; people I thought I knew, but now know for real (how good to see that most of us really do grow up!); connecting with the children of friends I’ve had since I was their age (big shout out to Aaron, who helped me jump into the modern age and learn how to work my own computer!); friends who have known me for so much of my life that they are just part of me; seeing family and people who feel like family… and then the place. The place that helped mold me and still holds such a piece of me that it’s hard to arrive and depart without feeling like I’ve left something on the plane, me.
Thank God for the transportation… that chance to process it all and move from one plane to an other, literally and figuratively. Being in airports gives me a buzz anyway. I could sit in most terminals (NOT the one in Minneapolis. Ok, before anyone tells me how wrong I am: I’m not referring to the big nice one that allegedly exists, but the crappy little one with lousy fried fish, that services Sun Country) for hours and just watch the other travelers do their own travel morph. Children running all over and most of us just hoping that they are in fact tiring themselves out. I’ve been there with three of my own challenging travelers, so while I have empathy for the poor, anxious parents who are hoping their kids are quiet and well behaved on the flight, I’ve paid my dues and now I just hope they’re right! Run Johnny, run… wear yourself out I silently pray! The chicks who are dressed to the nines because traveling in really high shoes and tight clothes is so comfortable (but someone will likely be happy on the other end), along side those who have decided that pajamas saves all that discomfort (please don’t get me started on wearing pajamas in public!). The business travelers who are plugged in and tuned out to the rest of us (we can in fact hear you when you chat on your cell phones), but make good watching for those of us who are essentially travel stalkers : watching everyone. As I watch everyone else, I can be distracted a little from the emotions of separating from one place, and moving back in to the other. I spend my time creating vignettes for the people I observe and lose myself a little in the process. It helps actually… I can come back in and out of my own transition and it helps me work through it all.
We are lucky in Seattle to have an airport that is filled with beautiful artwork (famous glass panels, sculptures, First Nation exhibits and photo galleries), fun shops and an environmentally conscious atmosphere that is soothing and pleasant to this traveler. It may seem a bit twisted, but I’m generally happy if I can have a lay over and spend some time checking out the latest artists, visiting Fireworks Gallery, or just sitting in the food court (I rarely fly without a stop at Qadoba grill) and people watching. Ok Johnny, we’re done flying now… please stop running around while I eat. When I arrived home this time, I knew it was foolish to try and deal with the 5:00PM traffic. So, I enjoyed some of the things I love at our airport and just sat a while. It’s familiar and feels like (almost) home and it gave me time to take it all in and let it all go. I needed to let some of the emotions of this week dissipate. I needed to let go of some of the people and places that I wont see for a long while and be ok with that again.
Earlier, as my first flight lifted off from Boston’s Logan Airport and the harbor and shoreline spread beneath me, I felt my emotions pull and swell. Those islands and the shape of the coast, the famous painted natural gas tanks that can be seen from the air, all are still familiar and it feels like I am leaving home, just as I did twenty years ago. Part of me gets a desperate urge to turn the ride around and get off. However, as my last flight made its final approach over SEATAC, in Seattle, and the waters of Puget sound sparkled around the Emerald City and the endless islands of forest green, gold, blues and purples, I could feel my emotions swell all over, to be home again. I could feel my children closer to me and waiting for me to come in. Even if they were really just on line or playing video games, I like to imagine them still making welcome home mommy signs. They didn’t, but their smiles were warm and the hugs felt good. The messy kitchen, well, I’m working on ignoring that. What I really felt as I made that last drive up through “the pass” (lined with huge evergreens and Lake Samish) in to Bellingham, is that I am the sum of both places, but this is home. And it’s good to be back. (This is a view from my kitchen, lucky indeed!)
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