This year, for the first time in my life, I was completely unable to get into the Christmas spirit.
Generally, I’ll admit, I start the holly jolly entirely too early. Just last year I cracked the vault of premature cheer in mid-October, when I realized they were already releasing new Hallmark Channel Christmas Classics. It was all hot cocoas and happy endings from then to New Year.
As the 2018 season approached, I was excited. The thought of Christmastime in years past hung over my head, and seemingly promised joy, love, and cheer.
I started cool and strong, with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” (Extra Festive) Holiday Radio playing in the background of every early November day like a 2000’s pop hits white noise machine (why isn’t that a thing?).
I watched a few Hallmark movies and then… nothing. I just stopped. I didn’t get back into the spirit and to be truthful, it never really felt like Christmas at all. The day itself was just another.
That is certainly not to say it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t Christmas-y.
This year I did not put out my decorations or put up my mini bedroom tree; I did not buy any Christmas presents until the absolute last minute. The outright saddest part is that I barely watched any of the quintessential holiday movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Holiday, Elf—I could shed a tear just thinking about it.
The one movie I actually did carve out time to watch, was none other than the hot-British-actor infested, equally gut-wrenching and heart-warming flick, Love Actually. Not surprisingly, the film did not in fact magically cure my depletion of Christmas spirit. It actually got me thinking about something else altogether: airports.
Contrary to the opinion of most, I love airports. They feel like a home away from home—safe. My mind wondered back to all the airports I have been through and all the people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
This is the part where I reminisce.
Frankfurt Airport, Germany, 2014: Germany had just won the FIFA World Cup the night before and it was apparent: nearly every security guard either looked too hungover to stand, or so thrilled that they high-fived everyone who passed by them—there was no in-between. I smiled my way through customs and was allowed to check a bag that was 3 measly pounds over the weight limit, only to be stopped by security and taken into a private screening room with several security guards who could only ask questions in German, which I regretfully could not answer. After taking my luggage apart and causing a giant headache (more from their language than the inconvenience, I’m afraid), I nearly missed my flight back to the good ‘ol US of A.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Michigan, 2014: I ran through the airport with a friend because 1) it is seemingly the longest airport ever and 2) we had just gotten off of a 14 hour flight and desperately needed to use our legs. I felt as if I could run and run and never stop; it was kind of like a fun game, one where I had to constantly dodge people and suitcases and little carts. Then I heard the most beautiful sound and immediately was stuck in place. I looked around frantically and my eyes finally landed on a man who had stopped on his way to wherever he was going to sit down and play the sleek black and utterly impressive grand piano nested between terminals. I sat and watched him for as long as I possibly could before I heard the gate attendant announcing last call for my flight home.
Los Angeles International Airport, California, 2017: I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan. Then I sat at a café table, ate some fruit, and celebrity watched because I couldn’t complete any of the other things Miley sings about in her song.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington, 2017: I had just gotten off of a red eye flight from Alaska and there was only one thing on my mind at the time (which was 4:30 AM)—coffee. As per instruction by a cousin of mine, I skipped the Starbucks and tried the local Italian espresso and pastry shop across the way. It did not disappoint. I walked over to the giant curved glass wall that overlooks the runway, sat down in a comfy Adirondack chair, and stayed there for a very long time, just sipping my espresso, and watching the planes take off as the sun rose above the horizon line scattered with evergreen trees and distant mountains. It was easily one of the best mornings of my life.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Michigan, 2017: I only had about 35 minutes of layover time before my next flight, but I ran like crazy to the other side of the airport. It was such a silly notion and completely unlikely, but I still had to check. As I grew closer I heard the sound wafting through the commotion filled air and when I landed in front of the piano my heart gushed. A man was still playing the piano, and in my head, he had never stopped. I imagined people came and went over the years, switching out when it was time for the other to leave, but the music never ended. A small part of me wished I could sit there too someday, when I was brave enough to take a seat… or when I actually had the time to stay awhile.
Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, 2017: My previous flight had been delayed a whole 2 hours and I was in great danger of missing my next—an international flight. I grabbed my things quickly and literally sprinted off of the airplane and down the gate, knowing my next flight was probably already boarding. When I emerged from the gate, other passengers were standing in line to board our plane. I, frantic and flustered, ran right into one of them. It actually hurt a little because this guy was so tall and built like a tank. I looked up from his chest to apologize and thoughts raced through my mind, “Gosh you shouldn’t be running through the airport like a dramatic actor trying to reach their true love before they board their flight.” Then suddenly, my face met his and I felt like I in fact was a dramatic actor in a movie, because the face I was staring at was Rocky’s. (Well, Sylvester Stallone, but he forfeited his name with the fame of the movie.) And when I say staring, I mean staring, mouth wide open, for several seconds—plenty long enough for it to be embarrassing and awkward. I was dumbfounded and stupid words came out of my mouth that didn’t even make any sense. But thankfully, he was chill about it. He told me kindly I should slow down, then I remembered that I couldn’t slow down and I turned and started running again. This time, I ran to the bathroom, because I felt flushed and sick. I splashed some water on my face, got on the plane and watched the most incredible sunset, which these next pictures don’t do justice. There really is nothing like New York City at sunset.
Brussels Airport, Belgium, 2017: I walked into the terminal with some of my very new and very best friends, but still stopped to look back at the picturesque landscape painted behind the tarmac on this particularly dreary day. After what seems like a desert hike through this airport, we finally find a bar that’s open; it is 7:30 in the morning. I order and quickly devour one of the best sandwiches I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Everything about it was grand: the crunchy bread, the fresh, juicy chicken, and the contrasting bite of the sweet cranberry sauce with the tart goat’s cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We finish eating and find an airport supermarket then proceed to buy about a billion Belgian chocolate bars and stuff them into our backpacks. Then we grab some juice and find comfy seats at a Starbucks, where we sip, chat, and relax as the clouds roll away and sunshine peaks through.
Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia, (several hours later), 2017: The man working at customs asks me if I have anything to claim. I unzip my backpack to show him the loot of fine Belgian chocolate bars I am packing and his eyes get wide like a kid in a candy store. He actually asks if he can have one and I have a good laugh about that. As if.
These, of course, are just a few stories, and believe me, I have run into my share of ridiculous airport hassles, but in the end, I always have a good time. I think what I like most is simply watching the people. I have noticed this crazy dynamic that is only present in airports or on planes where literally no one cares. About anything. (I mean, why else would anyone actually wear those horridly ugly neck pillows in public?) It seems to me that everyone just sees the airport as a gate to pass through on the way to where they are going, a leaping pad for them to take off to their actual life.
But here is what I have realized:
Life is more like an airport than anything. It’s the place between where we start and where we end up, where we are and where we are going. You know the old saying that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Well it is also what happens when you are sitting in a terminal waiting to board the plane that is taking you to those other plans you made. It is just as much a part of the journey as any, and to forget about it, see it as unimportant, or even a distress, would be a big mistake in my book.
I have lived some wonderful, spontaneous, inspiring, and peaceful moments in airports, and I plan to continue doing just that.
Indianapolis International Airport, Indiana, 2018: I get off the plane, take a few deep breaths and walk out of the terminal area to meet the people I love once again and go back home. Kam looks bigger, Dad is smiling one of those goofy dad smiles that only dads can, and Kade has his hands in his pockets ready to go eat somewhere nice. I don’t blame him.
I hug Laura first, and she cries, like always. And we have our completely corny, ironic, and cliché airport meet-up where we realize love actually is all around… just like Hugh Grant said it was.