Once, a fairly long time ago, I had this delicious fantasy of arriving in an airport - on the west coast, actually - and being greeted by a man. Of impatiently waiting to deplane, shifting my feet and maneuvering my bag before hurrying through the airport so I could walk up the incline toward the main concourse. My lips would curve widely upon seeing him and my heart would stutter gladly even as he grinned and moved toward me. We'd hug and I'd press a brief but heartfelt kiss to his lips before taking his hand and basking in the joy of being in love, moving outward to enjoy a leisurely vacation or sexy weekend together.
When it became clear that said situation would remain forever in my brain, pitifully relegated to some shameful corner that was embarrassed to have even hoped it, I began to dislike airports in general. I remain impatient, of course - barely restraining the impulse to push and shove in order to escape - but have grown so familiar with the places that I more often plod through them tiredly, nary a fantasy or memory marring my single-minded journey to reach my destination. I skirt people who are embracing long-lost lovers, rarely rolling my eyes but often wanting to. I tire of the crying children, the bewildered elderly, the chattering teenagers. Only the business people - strictly efficient and practiced at the art of travel - merit my attention as I tend to walk briskly beside them, follow them in lines where we swiftly clear security.
I was tired and achy after the flight home, but pleased that planes ran on time and layovers were mercifully short. I had a bit of dinner in Atlanta and bought a book before boarding the second leg of my Delta flight home. I nodded with satisfaction, tucking my novel into my laptop bag as we arrived at the gate early. Swinging my carry-on over my opposite shoulder, I sighed because it was heavy and put my head down like a pack mule and walked toward the exit.
I smiled when I saw Dad, raising one hand in a sleepy wave before watching him bend to share his sighting. The migrating mass of which I was part shifted enough for me to see Smallest One, earnestly looking for me with her face pulled into a mask of concentration.
Her expression brightened when she found me and I felt my eyes fill as she cried out and smiled, running toward me in that charmingly awkward toddle that will soon ease into her sister's more graceful stride.
"Hi," I managed, stopping short and dropping the larger of my bags before bending to scoop her up. She clung for a moment, letting me press my face into her hair, before beginning to chatter. I nodded and replied, smiling at Mom as she apologized to the crowd, making her way toward us and retrieving my bag before releasing Little One's hand so I could bend to hug her too. "I missed you," I whispered, smoothing her long curls away from her face, and smiling at the gap where her front tooth should be. "You're getting so big," I said, shaking my head, and leaned to take Smallest One's hand before she could scamper away.
It is not something I've pictured - of having children that look like me, only beautiful and wonderful, waiting eagerly for my arrival - but the overall feeling - at a high level, of course - is the same. To be loved. Valued. Missed.
So even as I'm sick - my lower back hurts such that the antibiotics must not be helping my kidney infection, my ears ache and head spins dizzyingly - I'm feeling blessed and grateful to have my family. And I'm ever so happy to be home.