The Miami Airport's North Terminal is a wonderland. Even the air smells better, but that's because of the expensive perfume shops. The floor is inlaid with gorgeous pearlescent shells and sea life, and -- is everyone more good-looking? I love this, even if it feels like a weakness to enjoy such ritz.
Dan and I head for our gate, find chairs, and get comfortable. I doze, exhausted from being up since 3:30 am. I am aware, even as I rest, of more and more people surrounding me. Finally, I sit up, a kink in my neck, and Dan and I kill time talking about our kids, Mom and Dad, and how much flying takes out of a person. I swear it's because of the noise of the engines.
When it's time to board our flight, I call Chris and Natalie at home, then Olivia on her cell phone, to say goodbye. The flight will be three hours, seventeen minutes and the next time I am on land will be in Cali, Colombia, the city of my youth. We rise over Miami and it seems we barely miss the skyscrapers on the beach. We are immediately over water, and soon we are over land again: Cuba, they say. They serve us delicious snack dinners, then I listen to jazz and look out the window. I see the ocean end and Colombia begin, and am in awe of the clouds building up over the land. It's silly, I know, but I feel safer with that bouncy castle of white beneath me.
Soon we will see the Andes, and I push the tragic memory of Flight 965 carrying Ariel Felton and Catalina del Corral out of my mind. That flight, and those school friends, didn't make it over the mountains in 1995.
The sun is dipping beneath us and the sky, still blue, is rimmed with pale yellow. As I sit, my forehead pressed into the window, I try to separate what is new about this experience and what I grew up loving about flying. Speed; I always loved the overwhelming speed that makes flight possible. And those clouds. The cold, forced-fresh smell of the airplane's oxygen. The sense that I'm closer to God up here. The music in my eats that separates me, making me feel alone on this wing.
So what is new? Chris. The girls. The fact that I am thinking of them at every turn, and missing them. And Alzheimer's. That's new.
The pilots lowers us into wispy clouds that will envelop us and darken the night around us. I remember this morning when tears stung my eyes as Chris glided down the escalator, waving goodbye. I'm on my own now, and I feel a momentary sense of rebellion. I didn't want to take this trip. After years of travel (my old passport opens like an accordion, stamped full) I am now a homebody. I didn't choose for my parents to move so far away. It all feels so dangerous, so frightening. I want my little life back. But I need to see my mom.
Then our airplane drops below the clouds and city lights shine in the distance. I can't deny the thrill I feel at seeing Cali, my beautiful Cali again. Like it or not, my world is about to get bigger once more.
Here is a link about Miami's North Terminal. Have you been there? http://www.miami-airport.com/app_north_terminal.asp