Homecoming

There is something special about airports around the holidays. And when you live near a small airport that only has a few flights a day, the stories play out with much less hustle and bustle and angst.

Today as I walked in the airport I saw elderly couples sitting together, a family with balloons waiting to welcome a loved one, bored teenagers looking at phones while their parents glanced anxiously at the doors that the disembarking passengers would walk through.

I found a post to lean against and checked my phone to see if the plane was on time. A 40-ish slim woman dressed in a leather jacket, sweater and leggings walked by whistling Christmas carols. The first time past I think it was Deck the Halls. She stopped, shifted restlessly from foot to foot, then walked back and forth again. Eventually she stopped near me to strike up a conversation.

Looking toward security, she said, “Do you think you can still go to the gates?”

“You’d have to go through security,” I said. “I think you’d need a ticket.”

“You used to go right to the gates,” she said. “How fun would that be to have someone waiting for you just as you got off the plane?”

“You could ask,” I suggested.

She wandered away again, whistling.

A young mom with long dark hair stopped a few feet in front of me with her three kids. A girl about eight was holding the hand of a boy about three who kept trying to spin her in circles. Mom boosted a one-year-old to her shoulders.

The whistling woman wandered back to report.

“There aren’t any signs to say you can’t,” she said, “but you’d have to take off your shoes and belt.”

“Oh,” I replied, still doubting.

“My brother missed his connecting flight in Dallas. He was on the runway for four hours in L.A.”

“That would be awful,” I said.

“Yeah, they put you up for the night and buy you a meal, but by then you’re so tired. No one wants that. Who are you waiting for?”

“My daughter,” I said.

We chatted for a few minutes more about living in other places and coming home to family before she wandered away again.

The one-year-old was now toddling happily back and forth. She and her sister smiled at me as they passed. The little group stopped a few feet away and the one-year-old toddled toward me, arms wide. She cooed, then abruptly stopped and toddled back to Mom.

Mom said, “I think she likes your coat.”

In my red coat maybe she was confusing me with Mrs. Claus.

I asked who they were waiting for. She told me her husband had been gone for three months.

“In the military?” I asked.

“Yes, he was gone six months before that. He’s only ever home a few days or a week. We have two months the next time, then three, then we’ll be going to Okinawa. I can’t wait to see him,” she said, hoisting the baby to her hip.

Her older daughter smiled up at her.

“Then thank you for your service too,” I said. “It isn’t easy to be the one left behind either.”

About then they announced that the flight we were all waiting for had landed. Slowly people began wandering out down the hall. A young man came out and was hugged  first by his dad, then his sister, then his mom. A couple walked out arm in arm. A gray-haired couple hurried to greet a young couple coming out with a sleeping baby.

Just then the most important person on that plane came walking out smiling. I reached up to hug her and whispered in her ear, “Welcome home.”

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The Teacher’s Carol

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

A small gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

One rotten head cold, and two gifts with bows to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a sweet gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a thoughtful gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a little gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Five missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a cheerful gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Two times indoor recess, six missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a generous gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

One dripping nose bleed, three times indoor recess, seven missing assigments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a silly gift to put under the tree.

On the last days before break, my students shared with me

72 Christmas projects, one dripping nose bleed, four times indoor recess, eight missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a shiny gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

A noisy Christmas party, 72 Christmas projects, one dripping nose bleed, four times indoor recess, nine missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a Fortune in gifts to put under the tree.

On the last day before break, my students shared with me

Lots of Christmas greetings, a noisy Christmas party, 72 Christmas projects, one singing flash mob, four times indoor recess, nine missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three party treats, a very early morning, secret gift wrapping, and the gifts we made to put under the tree!

A Christmas Wish

I’ve never been good at taking sides. I’m no good at “Us and them.”

Back in the day, advertisers encouraged us to choose Pepsi or Coke. I never had a strong preference.

I’m not a big sports fan, so you won’t find me bad mouthing one team over another.

In high school my closest friends were scattered in different groups. So no cliques for me. I was the one explaining everyone to the others.

I really hate presidential primaries. They make me pick a party to choose a candidate, but in my heart, I’m an independent.

I do have a huge streak of loyalty. If you have won my friendship, it will take a lot for me to give you up. Heck, I have trouble changing hair stylists.

So this dichotomy is what makes me a patriotic American who sees the need for improvement.

The election season was especially bad at drawing lines between us and them. There were those fearful of immigrants and those who called the fearful people xenophobes. There were those who valued policy over image, on both sides, as well as those who valued image over policy. There were those who wanted to turn time back twenty years to an age when manufacturing jobs were available and those who ignored those needs. There were those who wanted to make things better for the next generation, but none of them agreed on the best way to do it. There were those who said that everyone has rights and those who felt that maintaining their own way of life was more important than any single person’s rights. There were those who believed in the story told by extreme right wing media and those who looked for the facts and dismissed the power of that right wing media. Ironically even the parties divided themselves into us and them, changing the party platform on each side, one to “Keep them out” and the other to “Make it free.” We seem to be splitting further into us and them and them and them.

Of course  I have a stance on all these issues. But I draw the line at splitting myself off from the people who believe differently or have a different culture than my own. There is no them. There is only us and we need to keep trying to get better.

If you are reading this, I’m making an assumption. You are a literate human somewhere in the world. I wish that we could see ourselves and others first as humans, before we draw the lines between us and them. I wish that we would try to see the world from the point of view of another.

I make this classic wish for us all –

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man.