It started Monday night, the pit that forms in the bottom of my stomach before I take a flight to anywhere. I congratulated myself though, as usually the pit forms at least a week before a trip, but this time it was only the night before. “I’m getting better”, I thought to myself as I finished packing.
Tuesday morning I got up early and was ready to leave for the airport on time. Again, I thought to myself “I’m doing so good, feeling fine & relaxed, yeah for me!”. Got to the airport and groaned when I saw the security line. Snickered to myself that somehow I ended up in the body scan line and texted my husband to tell him as soon as I made it through security. Grabbed some breakfast and headed for my gate.
As soon as I had sat still with nothing to do but wait and think; it hit. My throat got tight and I could feel the process starting, but I reminded myself that I am a grown woman, a mother to my own kids and I steeled myself against it. Congratulating myself though that I had made it this far into an airport before it happened. I knew I was getting better, this was way less intense than it usually is when I fly. I ate my gooey cinnamon roll and started my new book while I waited for my turn in the boarding line. The cattle call began and I took my place at the head of the line with my B-1 (printed 1 min after check-in began!)boarding pass. Then it happened, for real this time. They called for any unaccompanied minors to please board now. Two young girls walked up with their father and I almost lost control. Their father hugged them and they walked away, the youngest one turned just after walking into the jet way to look back at her father; but he had already turned away.
My eyes welled with tears, it took every ounce of self control I had to keep the tears from running down my face. All those emotions, all those years came flooding back as if they were yesterday. The heartbreak I felt every.single.time I left one parent to visit or live with the other. I hated airports as a child, it was a Pavlovian response to my experiences. I cried at the thought of leaving my mother, I cried when I left my father, I felt guilt for crying. I loved my mother/father, I would tell myself, I was on my way to see them, how could I cry for leaving one when I was going to see the other? They were such complex emotions that I simply could not process. I flew back and forth many times a year until I was 18 (when I flew off to live with my mother for college I cried through the entire flight from Portland to Salt Lake City and finally had it under control by the time we reached Kansas City). It never got easier, it really didn’t. I only got better at controlling my emotions.
When I was young it was always my sister and I together. I don’t know if she cried or felt the way I did (I suspect she did), I was too wrapped up in handling my own emotions I didn’t pay much attention to her. After a tearful good-bye to whatever parent we were leaving we would be turned over to a stewardess who showed us our seats. I just wanted to sit quietly by the window and try to process my emotions. My sister, I remember, would deal with the situation by chatting the ear off whomever sat with us.
I stood in that boarding line, my eyes full of tears- reminding myself that I was an adult and those days are long behind me. I put a big smile on my face, handed the ticket agent my boarding pass and silently prayed that my tears would not run down my face and walked down the jet way.
My first thought was defeat. At 33 I still can’t fly without being painfully reminded of the past. There is nothing like an airport to bring my emotions close to the surface. It doesn’t take much, while in an airport, to make me cry. The emotions are just too close.