On the Road Again Willy Nelson sings in my head as I enter the airport, don my mask, and prepare to fly for the first time in 18 months. It’s a glorious day, and I’m headed to Florida to see my son, my daughter-in-law, and my two grandsons. For weeks leading up to this day, I’ve heard the jets both near and far in the sky and thought soon, by the grace of all that is good, go I. And now that day has arrived and my heart sings as I go through security in the early pre-dawn hour, take my seat on the cramped puddle jumper, and start the first leg of the journey.
When I arrive in Charlotte, the first thing I notice is that it doesn’t take as long as usual to taxi to the gate. Then, once inside, the crowd is thinner and most noticeably, many Starbucks are shuttered. I was counting on that tall cup of airport coffee to help me wake up and guide me through the layover. Instead, I find my gate, and take a seat in the waiting area at a spot remote enough to social distance, but close enough that I can engage in my favorite airport pastime – people watching. The passing crowd thickens over the next hour and I see the usual assortment of humanity, this time with the added various interpretations of mask wearing – some blatantly display their noses – some pull it down to talk to their family members. No matter, I decide. I’m vaccinated.
When the time comes to board the plane to Orlando, I gladly sit between two strangers surrounded by other strangers – an experience both ordinary and astounding after so long at home. It’s only when we are landing and I choke up when I’m sharing with the person next to me the purpose of my visit, that I realize what this means for me. For them too. My son – who is turning 40 and needs to talk about that with me – for my grandsons who at 8 and 10 still love to spend time with me – and for my daughter-in-law who has always welcomed me. Those days with them are glorious medicine for my heart and soul and a reminder of what truly matters. Now on to part two of my On the Road Again tour – a drive up to Philadelphia to visit my daughter.
Lee Stevens is a writer and a Weaver living in the mountains of western North Carolina. www.strawintogoldwriting.com