Thoughts in an Airport Terminal

The Victoria International Airport is a long, low building.  A small parking lot sprawls on one side while the runways spiderweb on the other.  Inside, it feels like a shopping mall on a quiet day—an information kiosk, Starbucks, White Spot across from the gift shop.  This is the first airport I flew into by myself on Reading Week in my first year of university.  Victoria greeted me with typical drizzly weather as I stepped down the stairs off the plane and hurried across the tarmac.

Travel by any means—plane, bus, boat—makes me nervous, worried that I’ll miss my scheduled departure and be left behind.  My heart seems to thud as I check the time in the Jeep again and again, assuring myself we will be there in lots of time.  I think about what I’ve packed, double-checking that I have everything—books for my summer writing class, Netbook, hairbrush, jacket in case of cool weather in Alberta…

My husband pulls the Jeep to the departures terminal.  Sunshine calls this “Grandma’s airport” because we just picked up and dropped off my mom here a few weeks ago.  Lily is fast asleep.  I say goodbye to Sunshine, tell her I’ll see her in a few days—“On a church day!” she declares—and that I love her.  I give my husband a hug.  He’d wanted to come in, to delay goodbyes, but I’m anxious to be at my gate, to know I’ve made it on time.  I’m taking only carry-on, so I walk straight through security.  Five minutes and I’m sitting at the gate, waiting.

I finish the first book for my course—a graphic novel about North Korea—before the plane starts to taxi away from Victoria.  I slouch in my seat to peer out the tiny window at Mount Baker on the horizon, wishing for my sunglasses.  This was all strange when I flew in through the rain ten years ago; now, I watch for landmarks as we take off.  The Malahat.  The beach in Sidney.  I wish for my camera, which I left behind as this is just a visiting trip, not a sightseeing trip.

I think of the end of my flight, at the airport that used to be “home.”  I remember playing cards with my parents in the departures lounge, because I was so nervous about flying to Australia that I had us get to the airport several hours before my flight left.  I remember walking off the plane in September, after most of a day spent in airports and planes, eagerly watching for my dad’s grey striped engineer’s hat.  Mom is picking me up this time, but she doesn’t get off work until after my plane lands.

I think of the weekend ahead.  Seeing my mom’s new house.  Visiting my college girlfriends.  Going for milkshakes with my dad and brother.  And—most importantly—spending time with my best friend’s mom, who was diagnosed a few months ago with cancer.  Her home was a second home to me during my growing up years.  She was my confirmation sponsor twice; her husband catered my wedding reception; her daughter told me about the midwife who delivered Sunshine.  I try to think of those memories and not the dreaded C-word.

Traveling seems to come with mixed emotions.  The excitement of going somewhere new—the worry that something will go wrong.  The joy in seeing old friends—the sadness behind the reason for this rushed visit.  Eagerness to be there—homesickness triggered by seeing a toddler in the waiting area, proudly pulling his suitcase and waving “bye” to everyone until he walks into the desk, just like my girls would do.  Contentment in having several hours of quiet to read—boredom as those hours stretch just a bit longer than expected.

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