There is a pure, unadulterated joy in remembering beginnings.
It is a tropical summer night tonight. One of the few in our temperate town. The cats are dark shadows against the grass, imagining themselves as alpha predators in the wide savannahs of Africa, I have no doubt. We have the door to the porch wide open, no lights on inside because we don’t have a screen and the mosquitos are going to eat us alive. We have just finished watching Fried Green Tomatoes and have listened to the soft vowels of the South all night.
I breathe in the moist night air and it conjures images of my first nights in Georgia. Of the soft sweet smell of the old house, of the polished hardwoods in the bedroom and the dirty old carpet in the living-room. The fresh, spicy aroma of homemade pasta sauce lingers in the kitchen, one of the first dishes my husband ever cooked for me. The tiles on the kitchen floor are old and some of them are cracked but they feel cool under my bare feet and here as there the door to the garden is wide open. This one has a screen, though, because you don’t mess around with Georgia mosquitos.
I picture us, six years later, in that house instead of our place here. I picture us chasing each other around the house, not needing to be quiet because of the neighbors. I picture us sweating while renovating the house and actually looking forward to the two days of snow instead dreading the long cold of the winter. I picture a toddler running over those hardwoods, chasing the cats while being chased by a Beagle.
The joy of remembering a beginning, it brings with it the longing for a life that has already passed me by. And for one long summer moment, I regret our decisions.
Then I move on and take up life where I left it – right in the middle.
I’m at the airport, waiting for my boarding call. I will be giving a presentation in front of about 200 people tomorrow. I should be working on my slides because I haven’t finished them yet. Such is my state of mind these days. Instead, I’m watching the passengers with their big luggage and their excited shouts and start reminiscing. I go over to check the departure times. The flight I’m looking for leaves at 9:50 am. I know this flight well. I’ve been on it for what seems a hundred times, though the last time was years past. It is the flight to my husband’s home town.
There was a nice grey-haired cabin attendant on the flight who knew me on sight. We traveled the same way often. I met a girl just a little younger than myself on one of these flights who travelled home to prepare for her marriage. Her future husband also lived over-seas. Another time a most excited youngster sat next to me and told me all about her coming months which would be spent with “Up with people”. She was scared to death under all her bubbly exterior. When the small talk was exhausted, I spent countless hours on these flights watching big screen movies in a format so small I could barely see what was happening. I shot crystals with other crystals and won more often than when I tried my hand at American trivia.
And at the end of this leg of my journey, I ran. I ran to be faster than the Korean flight which I knew arrived at the same time we did. The Korean flight which would take two hours to pass through immigration because there were never enough interpreters for everyone who needed them. Immigration got trickier after we got married. Try to explain to an immigration officer that you and your husband do not actually want to live in the US together. They will not believe you. So instead you just tell them that you cannot move together yet because of studies and houses and other obligations. Which is true enough. And you make sure you keep your tired face straight and use the word “Sir” with every of your answers. And then finally, finally, you’re through. You follow the endless halls, up the steep escalators, past the “point of no return” sign and a minute later you see them. The masses of relatives, friends, lovers waiting for their loved ones. And you scan the crowd, looking for that particular face. The only face you care about. And then he’s there and you fall into each other’s arms, you kiss. Awkwardly at first, your bodies not used to each other anymore after three months, after half a year. But you’re there and you’re loved, in all your tiredness and exhaustion and even though you’re smelling of airplane.
I haven’t made this trip in years. And my current travels lack both the excitement and the welcoming committee. When I’m at my destination today I will find my way to a conference via bus and train. On my way back, I will look at the welcoming people and look right through them, because I know there won’t be a face there that I care about. It is too much hassle, driving out to the airport just to drive back. Not when I’ve only been away for a day or a week. I always find my own way home.
I guess I should really work on that presentation.
PS: My husband just called. He will pick me up from the airport this time. He decided to do so BEFORE I published this blog. There are small miracles happening every day.