Thich Naht Hahn has written that people no longer know how to wait. We can't simply be in a place allowing time to pass. At doctor's offices, in bank lobbies, in subway stations, we need to fill the space. So we do things, even if those things have no value and aren't particularly pleasurable. We start conversations even when we have nothing to say. We pick up things to read--the two-day-old sports page someone left on the chair next to us, a magazine article we have no interest in, the label on a yogurt carton. We need to have something to do--anything, as long as we are not simply waiting, not just being in a place.
That was me on my flight to Italy. It's me on most flights, but especially this one. Between Minneapolis and Rome, I watched two full movies and part of a third, read most of the last volume of The Hunger Games trilogy, browsed through ebooks, played Scrabble on my Kindle, and, when that didn't fill all the time, searched for a TV show I might halfway enjoy on the inflight entertainment console. In beween all these activities, I was never still. Every ten minutes I had to search through my carry-on for something. Water. A snack. A mint. My glasses. A tissue. A pen. Of course, each time required an act of contortionism, as I twisted and bent and reached to avoid upsetting the tea on my tray, the tablet computer on my lap, my inflatable neck pillow, my blanket, and my lumbar-support cushion to retrieve a few almonds from my bag. I can only imagine how much the woman sitting next to me must have been wishing she'd gotten a seat by a screaming infant instead.
Of course, I had reason for the fidgeting . I would soon be in a place I've always wanted to visit and never made it to. More importantly, I would soon be seeing a sister I hadn't seen in twelve years.
"Is Atlanta your final destination?" the Transportation Security Agency guy asked as he ran my bag through the X-ray. "No," I said. "I'm catching a connecting flight to Rome." "I see," he said, peering at the various squares and blobs appearing on the X-ray machine screen. "Is that near Atlanta?"
I wanted to say, It is nowhere near Atlanta. It is nowhere near anywhere.
I've been to Siberia and Singapore. I've hitchhiked through Afghanistan and wintered in Damascus. But somehow Italy seemed farther than any of them. It is, after all, the country that swallowed up the youngest of my three sisters. The place she flew away to more than a decade ago to marry, have a child, and learn to live in a new language. She left at a troubled time for my family. There was, as they say, bad blood.There were misunderstandings, frayed wires, broken connections. And so, for a long time, there were silences. A vacancy in my heart. So much distance, time, and water under the bridge, that when I wrote her to suggest a visit, all I had left was a street address in a city I'd never been to and knew nothing about. Italy could have been the moon.
And so, I fidgeted and ate and read and watched and played my way across the Atlantic.
Then, I was there. We were landing. I was disembarking. I was waiting for my big black suitcase to rattle by on the baggage claim carousel. I was going through customs. I was walking through the gate, searching the crowd. I hadn't slept in 24 hours, but I felt ready to dance in a fountain. (That's what they do in Italy, isn't it? Dance in fountains?) I remembered a little girl who ran into my arms when I came home from college. I remembered the beautiful woman who ventured off to build a new life. And there she was, waiting for me, twelve years later. There she
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...