This morning, I felt like a character from the book Good Night, Moon. Only mine would read, “Goodbye room, goodbye house, goodbye car, goodbye Chris.” The airport was very quiet for a mid-morning. It seemed almost quieter than the library (which is not, perhaps, saying much). I was worried about being late, but we were the first ones to arrive. That was all right, because it gave me a few more moments of alone time with Chris, not that I used them for much except blinking back tears.
Checking in seemed to take an age, with all of us shuffling passports and carry-on bags and boarding passes. But I was sorry to see it come to an end, because then I would have to say my real goodbye to Chris, and I didn’t feel ready for that. But there was nothing for it but to try not to cry while Mike Snyder and Victor took pictures of all of us. I looked back to where Chris was standing several times, until I had already gone through security (where, naturally, I set off the metal detector) and couldn’t see him any more. I think he must have sneaked away when I wasn’t looking; just as well, perhaps, for I would have cried buckets if I had actually seen him go. As it was, I cried anyway, but pulled myself together.
We all sat at Gate D9, as there weren’t four seats together in D10, from whence we would actually depart. Bev and I investigated their newish travel Scrabble set, and navigated the tricky straits of signing Kassie and I up for Frequent Flyer miles. On the whole, we just sat in the sun and the quiet rustle of other departures. It felt strange to have begun our journey and yet be so far from the actual beginning.
Our flight was right on time, and everything pretty much as expected. Vic, Bev, and I all had seats near one another, but Kassie was off on her own, more toward the front of the plane. The destination announcement was classic; whoever was welcoming us aboard said, “This is flight ______ non-stop to Chicago. If Chicago is not your destination, this would be an excellent time to deplane.” I think it was Beverly that told me that she had, once, gotten on the wrong flight in California.
The announcer ended his spiel with “Have a pleasant flight,” but it came to my ears like, “Have a blessed flight,” and on the whole I didn’t mind the mishearing. Leaving the ground gave me a tiny, tiny taste of what it must have been like for my friend Ruth to fly out of Florida on her way to China two years ago. I’m leaving everything that’s familiar for something new and completely strange.
Of course, all this early stage consists of hurrying and then waiting. Our flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was delayed fifteen minutes; not too long, but just enough to be a little worrisome, as who knows whether it will stay at fifteen minutes or get longer? But then, as I was writing, I recalled that it might have been 45 minutes they were talking about, which is of course a greater concern. There was little we could do about it, though, except be concerned that we will miss our connection and thus miss our train; there are many trains to the border of Hungary and Ukraine, of course, but we’ll be landing later in the day.
This is my first realization of how precarious and fluid things can be. We had originally not had to worry overmuch about a train, because we were planning on being picked up at the airport. But the wait to drive across the border, Vic said, was about three hours at least, making the drive for Ivan Yurischko intolerable. So we must catch a train once we get to Hungary. I am, though, largely unconcerned, which would surprise those who know me as being a planner to the last degree. But I scarcely feel that this is my trip; I feel more, if you will, that I am an interested bystander.
Lunch was a McDonald’s Asian salad, from which we draw this moral: do not travel with your diet buddy. No, I’m only kidding. But there was some friendly teasing between Vic and myself about lunch and dieting. I was a good girl…this time.
Oh, and happy birthday to me! I turn 29 sometime today, my shortest birthday on record, as we gain hours (or lose them, I’m not sure which—whichever it is that makes the day go by more swiftly) on our flight. No cake, and a short birthday…when I pouted a little, Bev remarked, “This year, Katherine, we thought we’d give you a trip to Europe. Now, don’t expect this every year…”