Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Down to Business

The part I miss most about traveling on an airplane isn't the food or the peanuts or the flexibility. It's the fact that you used to be able to get off an airplane, walk down that long hall that separated the actual mechanical beast from the terminal, and emerge into the waiting area to find a group of adoring strangers, each holding their breath as passenger after passenger disembarked until the one they were waiting for finally came out. I miss being that person. The one who sparked that squeal, the sudden movement to break free from the crowd and rush forward, arms out, to welcome you to town. They had been waiting just for you. Given the choice between walking the red carpet at the Oscars or having that singular experience one more time, I'd choose the airport waiting area over and over again. Hands down.

Instead, we shuffle like sheep, prodded along by time schedules and the unknown, filing down steps, cascading onto moving sidewalks, assembled around a baggage claim turntable hoping to recognize our suitcases so that we can wheel them through customs and out into the entrance of the terminal where hundreds of people are waiting for hundreds of others who have come off dozens of flights that were late because it snowed in London for the first April in Her-Majesty-knows-how-many-years. Slightly more impersonal.

Having said that, when I finally saw that shock of blonde hair that marked my dearest friend's head, I felt instantly warm. It was I who squealed and momentarily wobbled between dropping my hard-won luggage and running to her or simply shouting her name and having her come to me. We met in the middle. The hug that felt so real, so familiar, erased the last eight months of separation, and her daughter wiggled inbetween us, her head now at the height of my collarbone. We were together again!

The 45 minute drive to their village was gorgeous. The light dusting of snow that had been at the airport grew as we headed out of town and the budding trees and spring-green fields were beginning to get coated. The sheep with their little white clouds of lambs in tow looked as though the cold weather didn't worry them a bit, and the pubs (public houses) along the way with their silly names (The Dog and the Goose, The Hound and the Bear) were picturesque and not at all ridiculous.

The town, while modern enough to sport a Subway and a Starbucks restaurant, is still English-countryside enough that the houses don't come with numbers for their street addresses. Each house, built of stone and brick, has its own name. The Catholic church carries history both outside and in. The sparse lawn around it is home to ancient tombstones covered in lichens and tipping to one side. The soaring ceiling is made of inlaid wood so intricate it must have taken more care and time to complete than anything I've ever done in my lifetime. And yet, the flowers at the end of each pew were evidence that a wedding had been held there just this past weekend and the caretaker and his lovely dog let me in to have a look around at the place where a good chunk of the townspeople come together every Sunday.

History. Now. This place is about the two of those things coming together. The solidity and comfort that history offer so that we can have a base upon which to build our today. What a beautiful place for a reunion. I am so lucky.


ammogirl said...

Aww. I love GB. I'm so glad you were able to do this.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Lovely! Lovely pictures! Lovely descriptions! Just lovely!

Deb said...

I'm so glad for you. Incredible pictures. I was hoping for the clouds of lambs. Will we get more?

Terry Whitaker said...

I love your description of the airport meetings. I feel exactly the way you described--and so miss the "greeting" at the end of the tunnel.

Jess said...

Yeah, I miss that moment getting off planes, too. Do you know the Ani DiFranco song about airports? You'd like it. Let me know if you need help finding it.

Great descriptions and pictures.

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