I’ve never have a bad attitude at an airport. Airports are my thing. Redbull doesn’t give me wings – airports do. The collision of stories, the endless possibilities, the myriad of colors and voices all in one place for that one moment, but literally spreading out to the ends of the earth the next moment. Ah, chills. Someday I plan to arrive at LAX and throw down a wad of cash for their next outbound international flight, wherever it may be.
I first found my wings when I was 18 and boarded a plane for Israel. I can still remember walking down the boarding gate to my plane and turning for a look back to my Mom – back in the good old days when they let people come to your gate to see you off. She was smiling through her tears – the kind of smile that came with a slight shoulder shrug, a long-distance nudge to keep going forward. That smile brought me so much courage, just what I needed to board a plane to a new place with new people. Wing-spreading quickly became my favorite pastime, be it locally or globally.
But two weeks ago, when a friend dropped us off at John Wayne, you would’ve thought we were headed to outer Mongolia. And I guess in some ways we were, since we were on our way to the Midwest. In January. Just in time for a Polar Vortex. All I wanted to do was stay home – a brand new sensation for this girl.
See, when life brought a season of storms – a friend’s cancer, unemployment, infertility being among the fiercest – I looked for stability anywhere I could find it. I looked for roots, and I found them. I fell in love with things like security and comfort – or at least their illusions. I discovered rich community and simple joy around a living room, perfectly content for it to be the same living room over and over and over. When we bought our house I was so excited that I could stay in this place for, like, forever. But now, with two weeks off, I was leaving it, and Did. Not. Want. To.
I’m pretty sure I got on that plane purely out of muscle memory. Or maybe my husband carried me. It’s a blur.
Boarding that flight meant I got to see what Chicago’s river looks like with ice chunks fighting for elbow room. I got a five mile arctic walk in with my husband of nine years, holding gloves instead of hands. I got to spend ten dollars to buy some Thai monks in sandals a hot tea, only to see them get in a cab before my actions could trump the language barrier.
I got to see what my friend’s kitchen looks like. And where she shops for groceries. And smell her trees and play in her snow and drink deep of the life she lives day by day.
I got to taste the glory of St Louis’ Candy Kitchen and Chicago’s deep dish and know what melted ricotta and chocolate chips can do to one’s soul. I got to bask in time with such good friends, and trade hugs that can say more than a Skype date ever can. And I got to meet new friends, forging bridges that I know we’ll cross again in the future.
As I was sitting in a Chicago Pizzeria, a place that looked like the quintessential “where-everybody-knows-your-name”, but where no one knew mine, I realized just how deeply I love having both roots and wings. Pictures of the 1921 Chicago Whitesox hung on the wall, and I imagined the team actually gathering in this place for a taste of the pizza pie I was about to indulge in (OMG Chicago’s food). Thinking of their roots made me think of mine, and all the wonderful places where people do know my name. And all the people that know the deepest truths of who I am, oftentimes better than I do.
Having roots doesn’t always mean staying home of course, but it does mean embracing the things that aren’t new, that change so imperceptibly that you might miss it if you’re not paying close attention.
And wings doesn’t always mean a plane flight – it means being ready for the things that ARE new, gifts you didn’t know you needed. Even if you have a bad attitude about it at the start.
What about you? Where (or who) are your roots? How do you spread your wings? And do you ever, like me, have to remember to reach for both? #truestself