The planes engine revved, causing the air to be heated with passenger’s thoughts. My stomach leaped – partially due to my fear of flying, and partially due to my wish that the moments leading to this flight had been better at taking their time. Silence filled the cabin as the plane began backing away from its resting spot. My ears buzzed along with the engines and the stewardess took her place inches from my seat in the first row. As she began her well rehearsed skit with a self inflatable life vest, my attention wandered into a montage of memories that I had been trying to avoid. How could I help it though? The plane turned for the final straight away down the runway. I bit my lip, and took a breath. Memories were thrusting into my consciousness, demanding a proper goodbye. The faces, places, transportation, and Razzie were wrapping a noose around my heart. My fingers dug into my knees with the jolt of the plane catching the wind. We were air borne and heading west. I was airborne and heading home.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have now set our course to Newark, New Jersey where temperatures are high twenties and are expecting six to eight inches of snow. We will be landing in seven hours…” seven hours, a breeze. Getting to Dublin took twelve hours by bus and it was only seven hours to New York City. Europeans, always boosting of their alleged superior existence, were quite inconsistent with their knowledge of New York City. The French chanted, “New York City, the best city!” as we walked the streets of Temple Bar in Dublin. However, as they danced in its name they were blissfully ignorant of the rest of New York State. Why spoil their appreciation of my Manhattan status with the vital fact that I did not come from “New York City, the best city.”
A metal cart came to a stop next to my seat, interrupting me from my memory. The two others next to me ordered their drinks, and breaking the silence of our so far quite flight, I asked where they were from. Excitement hit us all as we realized all of us were headed home after a semester traveling and meeting people from all over the world. Stories bounced in and off each other as we shared our experiences of the same cities. Each of us admitted to the shocking atmosphere of Amsterdam where you could find a joint or prostitute any time of day. How when you began to find yourself surrounded by ravenous looking men it was time to turn around or head right into the Red Light district. It was exhilarating at night, I added to the conversation.
In our exchange of words, we never shared our names. The freedom of speaking with no strings or commitment was the most rewarding introduction. I was no stranger to this freedom. It was in Paris I first discovered the romance of not knowing another’s name. My flat mate, Allie and I had chosen to spend our last weekend abroad in Paris. It was my goodbye to the continent. We stopped in a small and busy bar, intrigued by the smells wafting onto the street. We met them then, our two new stranger friends. It was late in the night, or early in the morning when we finally parted after hours of wandering in the streetlights of Paris. The world becomes bigger, when you know you will never see someone again.
I looked at my watch counting the hours and the noose tightened around my heart. There are three hours until we land, three hours until I will be forced to accept the reality of the distance between me and my what had become a second home. My bag fell over with a burst of turbulence and as I bent over to scoop up my carryon, a flat package slipped into my hand. Phillipa, the mother of my European adventure, had given me this present before I left. She slipped it into my hands and told me to wait until Christmas. Six hours ago I had lifted my suitcase onto a bus which took me away from her and the home we shared. I let go of her too fast, for all the doubt in my return, but that moment had been my hardest yet. That was our good bye. She guided me, while letting me do everything on my own. She took me to Italy where I found my kitten Razzie, another face I may never see again. Phillipa gave me the confidence to seek out my family in Norway. She encouraged me to get on that plane to a country I thought I would never visit. My relative’s faces glinted around my memory; Bro, Bridgette, Ohon, Helene, Tonie. Would I see them again? Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Belgium, Wales, Italy, Norway and England; would I ever step foot on their cities again?
I slipped the package back in my bag, with a feeling that was dangerously close to the one I felt leaving Norway. The feel of gain and loss so close together caused my usually shy tears to spill down my face. Putting my hood over my eyes and breathing deep through my nose, the weight of my memories warmed. I traveled alone to Norway to see family I had never met. I became a vagabond of Europe with limited funds, public transportation and hostels. I studied design in London, my backyard. Independence, confidence, reliability and responsibility became a daily necessity. The montage of memories began to stream through my mind with limited grace. It was these memories that now held my hand for remainder of the flight home.