A Mother Breathing

Oh, hey, I have a blog!  Hello!

MoCoWritesHeaderA few months ago, I came runner up in a local writing contest.  They published my piece on the Montgomery Magazine website, but I’m just going to go ahead and paste it here, too.  Because, hey – this is my platform, and, apparently, this is my voice:


           My husband’s idea of a nightmare is missing a flight. Even a sprint down an airless corridor, trailing overstuffed luggage and whining children, is enough to put him off his whole trip. We typically arrive two, sometimes three hours early, even for domestic flights. I’m all for it: sometimes the security lines are infinitesimally shorter at 5am, but the real reason is that it lets me do one of my favorite things.
I love sitting in airports, waiting for planes.
By now I’m pretty good at packing for these empty spaces within our trips. I’ll have my kindle and my knitting. I’ll bring an empty bottle to fill past security, a plastic cup for each member of the family, and a supply of dried fruit and trail mix. My husband watches the gate tango like a husky watching a squirrel, so I know we’ll stand at the precise moment to be first in line for the group that will be, inevitably, the last to be called to board the plane. My children munch their healthy-ish snacks and argue over who gets first turn on their shared kindle. I usually give up my own kindle for the sake of quiet.
And then I sit there, knitting forgotten in my lap, the buzz of announcements not really penetrating. At that moment, I’m exactly where I need to be. I zone out, guilt-free. It’s marvelous.
In college I took a class called “Locus and Platea in Shakespeare.” The professor wore clever boots and a hat that trailed peacock feathers. A week or two before winter break, one brave soul raised his hand and admitted that he had no idea what the words “locus” and “platea” meant. Three-quarters of the class swiftly agreed, and the rest of the semester was spent on remedial definition of basic terms. Maybe that’s why I remember these words so well now. Every class should end with a few sessions of “what the hell was all that about?”
As I recall, the locus is the world of the play, the world the characters inhabit, most with no notion that any other world exists. Some characters, however, can step into the platea, an in-between zone where they can address the audience directly and comment on the action of the play. An aside, a wink, a soliloquy—they exist in the platea.
The airport waiting lounge is my platea. I’m not at home, where two lifetimes’ worth of unfinished projects taunt me, nor am I trying to wring the most from every moment from our over-planned vacation, which has no hope of living up to the fantasies that have formed a layer over every conference call and grocery line for the past six months. In the airport, waiting for the plane, I’m not ignoring the state of the kitchen and I’m not discovering that I’m allergic to the South of France. I’m not checking homework while trying to produce a meal while wondering exactly which career move was the wrong turn while realizing that I haven’t called [insert relative here] in way too long. I’m not debating with my children whether it was cool for ancient Romans to have heated floors if it took slave labor to run them. I’m not contemplating the vast array of “creamy stuff in individual cups” that makes up an entire section of your average French grocery store, I’m not on a conference call, and I’m certainly not clutching at my children as they hurl themselves at the flimsy railing between the astronomical observatory and the mountain. Sitting in an airport, waiting for a plane, I just am.
Why does it seem revolutionary, this simple act of a mother breathing? I think the reason is this: for once, there is a easy answer to that horrible, inescapable question, “What should I be doing now?” Waiting at the airport, that answer is “Not much.”
I suppose this is the point of meditation: to be not quite here, not quite there. To witness the observer, observing your life, and toss her a joke. I’ve never quite managed that by sitting still in a quiet room, but I know I can find Nirvana at Gate 29b.

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