Mom sent pics of my last visit home. It reminded me of HNL and that feeling I get when I march towards the baggage claim. Trips home seem like a habit almost — until I see the faces of the people I love, then it all hits me at once — every time is special.
Long drives to PDX are routine. Check-in, security crap, sit, wait, look at the people pass. I usually remove one headphone to hear the boarding announcement. Then I watch everyone rush to wait in line even if their row isn’t called, and watch empathetically as people look frustrated as they talk to the counter about their standby status. The plane doesn’t leave without its passengers. Seems like a simple concept, but not to most.
Plane rides are mundane. I used to talk to the people who sat next to me about what they did for a living, their ambitions, sports, whatever. At some point I stopped caring. Life is too short for single-serving friends.
Books keep me occupied in spurts. I attentively watch movies I can’t hear or feel, carts either bump my arm or I can’t find the nook in the wall of the plane that fits my head. I manage to sleep — some.
I think about what I left behind today. I weigh it against what I leave behind everyday. People grow, they go away, they live their own life — that is how it works. It’s okay, right? Yeah, it’s okay.
The plane lands. I worry for 3 seconds about a crash landing but decide to trust the pilots. I am the last person to stand, I realize that if I stand immedeately I still won’t be going anywhere. I grab my trash from the magazine pouch, put it into my fist and keep reading.
When the line starts to move, I glance into the eyes of the person standing behind my row. They nod and I grab my bag from the overhead compartment. I put my trash into the outer pocket and march forward as quickly as I can while thanking the person behind me for waiting.
I thank the stewards and pilots as I exit and wish them a nice day. I smell home in the carpet of the gate. The humidity fills my lungs and the heat tugs at my memory. I’m home.
Passing JAL tour guides with their signposts I walk briskly. I pass people I recognize from the plane on my way to baggage claim. I take the long way so I can see the mountains from the terminal walkway. Most people take the bus.
I pass the Duty Free booth that sells super-sized cartons of cigarettes to tourists. I don’t recognize the brands.
I look at myself in the mirror as I descend towards the Hawaiian Airlines baggage claim area. I’m older. I smile anyway.
Kelly, Mom and Dad are beyond the sliding glass door. I pass through. Plumeria, pikake and ginger linger in the air. I hug them, eyes closed, frozen in time.
You never really leave home, but you sure as hell know when you get back.