LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Heroes by Default

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Our vacation to the New England Coastline had been planned for months, our lodging prepaid and non-refundable. So it was that we boarded our flight from San Francisco to Manchester, New Hampshire on September 16, 2001.

That’s right, precisely five days after the world (as my generation knew it) changed irrevocably. Airplanes as suicide bombs? Hundred-story buildings disintegrating like those in an animated film? Fighter jets scrambling to do the unimaginable? My husband and I (pilot/flight attendant, respectively) boarded a scarcely populated aircraft and headed east.

The first breakfast held a table of twelve. As we all chattered about the basics: where are you visiting from…what do you do? The room grew quiet, all gazes drifting toward us. The rest of the guests were locals who had canceled trips to stay within driving distance of home. We’d not only traversed the continent in a “weapon,” we were part of the group that had been slaughtered before everyone else. Many rose from their chairs to hug us, offering words of praise with tears in their eyes.

We were heroes, by default, for the day…

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The Rose

I was working the last flight of a twelve-hour shift when I spotted an older Hispanic gentleman heading down the airplane aisle looking perplexed. I’d spied this confused expression countless times from those not familiar with our unassigned seating policy.

“Any open seat is yours,” I told him.

He cocked his head, clearly still confused.

Cualquier asiento.” I ventured in my best Spanglish.

He lifted his tan cowboy hat and smiled shyly, illuminating golden flecks in his hazel eyes. He wore Wrangler jeans adorned by a turquoise belt buckle with crisp seams down the front, a red and white-checkered dress shirt, and cowboy boots that matched his hat. Unlike most passengers, cramming baggage into every compartment, he carried only yellow roses.

He chose a window seat, and throughout the two-hour flight those roses remained securely in his grasp. Technically, I should have asked him to stow them under his seat for takeoff and landing but envisioning some lucky recipient waiting for flowers handled with such care — well, I just couldn’t. I gave his language another whirl, offering him a beverage and later a snack. He politely declined both, focusing solely on his precious cargo.

Upon our arrival, while the others pressed toward the exit, he remained seated. Anxious to get to our layover hotel, my crew motioned for me to inspire his departure. Approaching him from behind, I noticed he was struggling to pull a single stem from his bouquet. A blood droplet appeared where a thorn had nipped his thumb. Before I could open my mouth, he removed his hat and looked up with a sincerity that made my heart feel too big for my chest.

Gracias por su amabilidad,” he said, handing me the flower.

He was thanking me for my kindness? I swallowed. Hard. This gentleman, whose only carry-on consisted of a gift for another, was taking his precious time to acknowledge me?

How is it that those who seem to have the least so often give the most?

I carried that rose throughout the rest of my trip, savoring its sweet fragrance and keeping the petals after they dropped. I store them in my jewelry box so I’ll never forget that life’s true treasures come from those persons whose kindness enriches one’s heart more than any material good ever could.

Just in Case Letter

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I just finished reading a memoir written by a military wife whose husband left her a “just in case letter.” Tragically, the worse occurred and she claimed the single thing that allowed her to move forward without feeling like she was betraying their love was his insistence in the letter that she live.

Soldiers are clearly in a lane of their own and words cannot convey the depth of my gratitude, but shouldn’t we common folk have some sort of worse-case-scenario plan in place too?

My husband and I are both airline crew so our mode of transport is statistically safer than those navigating rush hour commutes daily. Still, with every take-off and landing, shouldn’t I indulge in the peaceful knowledge that my message will be there — waiting?

I adore the spoken word, but when given the choice I clamor for the written format. Sure, I can chatter days-on-end about trivia, but when something is weighty I prefer the perspective of the page. In conversations of any magnitude I torture myself, second-guessing every last utterance at 3:00 AM when sleep mocks me. The ability to edit, walk away, circle back, delete, reevaluate, polish and tweak a tangled compilation of letters is akin to decorating, cleaning, stocking up on Champagne, and procuring the quaintest flutes before inviting guests into your home.

As Mark Twain said: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” And so it is, when the occasion involves matters of the heart, I will always reach for a pad of paper or fire up my trusty laptop…

I Still Believe in Me

 

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Restlessness percolates through my veins

My soul mutters guidance I can’t quite hear

My heart hammers in protest

I forget to breathe

Why can’t I make out destiny’s voice?

When others seem capable of belting out her words

Like lyrics from a favorite song?

Clarity escapes me

Everyone else forges ahead with impressive accomplishments

Yet I flounder

Seeking an outlet to pour the best of myself

Filling pages with inspiring bits

Not merely the first thought that spills forth

All the while struggling to lift a spirit pummeled by self-doubt

Loyalty and support ebb and flow

So tempting to turn to another to field my dreams

A scapegoat to gesture toward when progress stalls

But no one can do this for me

A mountain I must scale alone

I persevere

Certain my soul has a plan

Tightening my boot laces

I stare boldly into the sun’s blinding glare

Dirt scuttles across the vacant trail

And I still believe in me

Laughter

Laughter

Rippling through the air

Smiles morphing into gape-mouthed giggles

Tears shooting off pulsating cheekbones

Hands clutching quivering ribs

A shameless snort erupting

Laughter

A magically contagious human gift

Whether soft and polite

Or threatening to burst one’s core

A welcome affliction

And formidable defense

Sprinkling the high notes

Into life’s somber melody

A tune that renders one choiceless

But to dance

Leaving Home

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How many times had I counted down the days until sweet freedom would be mine? Going away to college meant doing precisely what I wanted when I wanted — sans parental monitoring. I could not wait! So why was my heart heavy as I waved goodbye from the curb of my twin-bedded dorm room? Independence and all its glories were mine…ALL MINE.

I suppose somewhere in the recesses of a still maturing mind, my brain knew this was just the beginning. Family life as I knew it would never be the same again. “Home” from here on out would only be a place to visit during holidays and summer breaks. I was on my own. Life’s hurdles awaited my every stumble.

That first month on campus passed in a blinding whirlwind of new faces and overwhelming schedules, where potential failure loomed. After all, we were curtly informed at orientation: “Look to your left, look to your right, one of those students will flunk out by semester’s end.” One third of the freshman class gone in four-month’s time? No pressure — just had to tweak a workable balance between academic and social.

There were moments, that only thirty years later I will admit, I wanted to go home so badly it hurt. Sitting on that lush green quad, I would try to quell my homesickness. All the while wondering how the family I couldn’t wait to leave suddenly seemed so warm and compassionate in comparison to the cold, calculating strangers in this cut-throat institution. But I did not hail from a line of quitters.

I came to love that central Illinois campus surrounded by its cornfields, ear-tagged cattle with strange funnels sticking out of their sides, and chicken coops (courtesy of the Ag department). Inhale…hold breath…hold breath…hold breath…and exhale (whoooooosh). We had the largest Greek system in the country that supported an impressive range of philanthropic causes. We still had Chief Illiniwek as our mascot. And Kam’s served a budget-friendly Long Island Iced Tea that lasted the entire duration of happy hour. My experiences, both positive and challenging, made me more confident and adventurous — albeit a bit more cynical than the innocent soul who’d arrived four years earlier.

Each of us has to break free from the nest and ascend into the clouds. Fears of operating in uncharted skies can be debilitating. Shoot for the moon anyway. Even the smallest daily motion powers upward momentum, each effort building upon the other until one magical day we marvel at the glow of starlight splashing across our faces…

I’ll Be Happy Then…

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What?! I can be happy — right now? There are at least fifteen more dramatic adjectives I can insert here — but happy?? Life isn’t supposed to be easy. One must work hard, suffer, fail, work even harder. But happy — right now?  I mean, I’m a work in progress.

For example, this sudden jiggle in my thighs. I intend to commence a diligent lunge program first thing tomorrow. Then there’s the crow’s feet forging a crinkly frame around what was once my best feature. And what’s up with this blooming nodule on my jawline; will I be senile and still breaking out?

Of course I have less superficial goals. I want to take voice lessons, learn the Tango, perfect my Spanish, perhaps study French. What I really need to do is focus on being less preoccupied. And I definitely need to establish a “girl’s group” in my neighborhood. We could go to a comedy club, a play, a concert, or just rent a movie and hang out with a vat of popcorn. But not this month because my schedule is nuts.

My roots are screaming for high-lights, and I have nothing to wear. My summer wardrobe is just not me anymore. My coloring has changed. Everything I put on looks ghastly. Maybe I should get a spray tan. Oh, and there was a miracle skin-clearing product I read about in Oprah Magazine. I wonder if they FedEx? And what about dinner? First, I must get the clothes into the drier and iron my work shirts. Did I water the plants yet? I need to pick a specific day each week so I won’t keep forgetting. Thank goodness the cats have a self-feeding/watering device. I can’t believe the roses on my desk are dying already. I hope I remember not to buy them from that store again.

Oops, there goes my cellphone. It’s my mom calling for our weekly chat. I’ll have to call her back. Because my main goal is to be a writer. And the truth is, I haven’t spent nearly enough time pursuing this dream. Next week, after my husband upgrades my computer system, I’ll begin. No sense in losing my prose to an unanticipated computer crash, right? Next Wednesday it is! I’m committed. Once I return from my 3-day trip as a flight attendant, after I work out, return phone calls, run errands, do the laundry, water the plants, give the husband and cats some love, prepare dinner…

I’ll be happy then.

Family

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That which God chooses

And entrusts with your destiny

A gift you are…one to the other

To teach

To learn

To chart your dreams

Building confidence

By overcoming doubts and fears

A foundation from which you spring

Secrets shared, problems solved, memories made

Someone to scoop you up when you stumble

To fluff your broken wing

And cheer you back to flight

A hand to hold, a warm embrace, words of assurance

Endless camaraderie

And a bond of enduring love that fortifies your heart

Against the adversity in the world

The Lost Art of Communicating

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What on earth has happened to the art of communicating? I’ve seen people on buses, trains, airplanes, and park benches so engrossed in their phones and miscellaneous gadgets that they have no clue what’s going on around them. They miss interacting with that stranger next to them who could be the most intriguing individual they’ve ever met. A career connection, a spiritual inspiration, perhaps a future lover — sadly, they’ll never know.

I’ve observed families at restaurants, each of them lost in their own electronic world. It makes me grateful for the fond memories I have of family mealtime. Each night we’d gather, say grace and swap stories of the day. What we discussed wasn’t as important as the bond we forged.

And when I watch couples out on dates, checking their phones obsessively, I thank the heavens above I’m not single. Because, unless my date was an on-call neurosurgeon, I would get up and leave if he dared to eyeball his phone during our conversation.

True, the myriad of paraphernalia has made life easier, providing a certain sense of security, but — as with everything — moderation is the key. Far too many are missing out on precious moments happening in real-time right before their eyes…

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