Today marked my fourth time in an airport in eight days. That sounds like a lot, though one of those was an ill-fated trip to LAX resulting in my flight to New Orleans being cancelled because of an ice storm.
I’ve always loved spending time in airports. They’re like portals to other worlds. People coming and going. Rushing through them to make a connection, stalled in them due to weather delays. When I myself am not rushing to make a flight, I like to find a spot to sit and people watch, to daydream about complete strangers and make up stories about them. There’s the distinguished, well-dressed man on a business trip, the college student headed off for adventures abroad, the lovers saying their last goodbyes. Strangers I’ll never see again, save for a brief glance, a few pleasantries exchanged in an airport bar or a coffee shop, a laugh over something awkward in the security line. And then gone forever. Just a moment in time.
And then there’s me. In the last 16 months I’ve logged more than my fair share of frequent flier miles. Given my propensity to daydream whole lives about people I’ve never met, I’ve wondered if there’s someone out there who’s done the same thing about me. The sad, pretty girl dressed in black, polite but not conversational, hiding out in a quiet corner of the bar nursing a glass of red wine. The girl who looks like she’s trying not to cry. You see, I’ve embarked on many sad voyages over the last year plus, and the artist in me hopes to God that something beautiful has come out of my grief. That some daydreaming stranger – like this daydreaming stranger – saw me and wrote it down, in a poem, in a song, in a story.
I have been actively trying not to be sad. Really, I have. I just haven’t been able to help it. The twisted irony is that someone who loves travel and airports as much as I do has had more opportunities to travel than ever before, but in a case of be careful what you wish for, these trips have often been necessitated by tragedy. I’ve traveled to spend time with dying relatives. I’ve bid farewell to both of my parents, and to my last remaining grandmother. I’ve attended three memorials, and made many more trips to do impossibly hard jobs, to lend moral support to loved ones, and to in turn seek out my own support.
Most of these trips have been back to the Pacific Northwest: my home, my heart, a region of the country that I love more than anywhere in the world. But even happy trips – summer in Vancouver to celebrate my sweet Niece’s high school graduation, Christmas with my Aunt and Uncle and my beloved Grandfather in a small waterfront nook in Western Washington, have been tinged by heartache. I do not want to be the sad girl who cries in airports, but more often than not, I have been.
Which brings me to today: February 1, 2014. I made a New Year’s resolution (really, more like a vow to myself) that I would travel to three places I’d never been, and an additional resolution that none of these trips would involve tears. So far, so good. An amazing trip to New Orleans – despite two cancelled flights due to insane weather – to celebrate my sister Marion’s birthday is already in the books. And more fun ideas (like taking my first trip to Montreal to visit my niece, who’s in school there) are in the works.
I have no idea what lies ahead. But I do know that in spite of my many sad voyages, the wanderlust in my heart has never died, and the desire to spend time daydreaming in airports and making up stories about the travelers in those transitory portals hasn’t gone away. I would like more stamps in my passport. I would like more adventure in my life. And I would like a hell of a lot less crying in airports. That is, of course, unless they’re tears of joy.
Until next time, friends.