Airports and hometowns

Getting ready to leave home for D.C. after Christmas, I'm remembering how I used to love packing and used to love airports.

I would lay out my wardrobe for any upcoming trip, sweaters and jeans in winter and swimsuits and Nike shorts in summer, to make sure I had everything I could need for a weekend with my grandparents on the cold river or a fortnight in the family condo on the beach. Spread across my comforter, the tidy folds of my clothes seemed to hold so much potential, even the balled-up socks arranged in a row. 

And early morning drives and sunrises through the windshield, no matter where I'm going, call to mind riding with my family to the Raleigh airport en route to Disney or New York City — to a ten year old, the most magical places in the world. The airport itself felt magical. Checking our bags, going through security, and finding our gate felt like a big to-do, an ante-adventure or prequel. All the people and the tall ceilings. Our travels were the closest I could get to living in a fairytale. 

Neither hold the same allure anymore. A part of this was developing an awareness of an unsafe world. Christmas lights and bullets both shine in New York. The other part was becoming an adult with a paycheck and a checking account. The frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity is not, in fact, free. Nor is tea time with Cinderella. The Monorail smells, and I am the only one making sure I am at my departure gate on time. This is the fading magic of youth, when every thing is free and every one is kind. 

I drove out to Frenchman's Creek this morning to have my tires checked before I make the drive back to my grown-up home in D.C. All were fine. The man at the shop, a friend of my dad's and whose kids went to high school with me, wouldn't let me pay. I thanked him, and he said to tell my parents hello for him. And for that moment, I felt like a child again, cared for and safe in a hometown world.