Thursday, April 06, 2006


I’ve had reason to go to DFW airport a number of times in the past few weeks. It is not one of the world’s great airports, and it’s not my favorite place to go, and if you’ve been there, you’ll understand why. Usually, whether you’re picking someone up or dropping them off, you’re restricted to an area near the luggage carrousels, with a few places to sit but nothing to see and nothing to do, and not even a vending machine in sight. However, the last time I was there, picking up A from his most recent trip to Chicago, I was able to wait in an area that was a people watcher’s dream, because one side of the waiting area was a wall of glass. On the far side of the glass, I was able to observe passengers disembarking from their flights, while on the near side, where I was standing, I was able to observe the people waiting to meet them.

In a period of a little over 30 minutes, three reunions were memorable. First, I saw a father in his late thirties or early forties walking rapidly toward the spot where I was standing, which gave a good view of both gates. He was accompanied by his three lively children: two little girls, perhaps 5 and 9 years of age, both wearing hot pink t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots, and a rather large boy of 11 or 12, wearing rumpled sweats. Their father was tall, well over 6 feet. He had broad shoulders, but was beginning to put on weight. He had a full, dark beard, and hair pulled into a ponytail that fell to the middle of his back. He wore black, horn-rimmed glasses, circa 1960, a plaid shirt that looked as though it were an old friend, blue jeans, and boots. He was not an unattractive man, but he looked as if he worked with computers. "Watch that gate: Mommy’s going to come through that gate," he said, pointing to one of the two gates from which passengers could exit. "When is she going to be here? I don’t see her!" the older of the two girls said. "Her plane is in; she’ll be here any minute. I want you to watch to see who sees her first!" he said.

All 3 kids pressed up against the window, eagerly watching the gate. Eventually, a crush of passengers began to crowd through the gate. "Where’s Mommy?" the older girl asked anxiously. "She’ll be here, keep watching!" the dad said, not unkindly. Eventually, a rather large, dark haired woman in black pants and a hot pink sweatshirt that matched the shirts the two little girls were wearing emerged from the crowd. Her face lit up when she saw her family. Pulling her carry-on bag behind her, she hurried toward the window.

The kids began to jump up and down. "I saw her first!" "No, I did!" "Did not!" "Dad! I saw her first, didn’t I?" Their father was wonderfully calm. "I saw her first," he said firmly, settling the matter for once and for all, and the kids seemed quite happy with his pronouncement.

The woman came right up to the glass, smiling. She mouthed to her husband, "I have to pee!", and she gestured toward the restrooms on her side of the glass. He nodded, and said, sotto voce to the kids, "OK, Mommy’ll be here in a minute, but first she has to pee."

"What?!?! Why does she have to pay? What does she have to pay for?" the boy asked loudly, sounding exasperated.

"PEE, PEE! Mommy has to go to the bathroom!" I heard the dad whisper rather ferociously to his son. Then he said something that surprised me. "Go look for Mommy’s suitcase!" he commanded.

"Which one is hers?" all 3 kids asked simultaneously.

"Well," he said, "She took the purple one out there, but the airlines lost it, and so she had to buy a new one. I noticed that the carry-on bag that she has is green, so I’d guess the suitcase will match it. So go look for a green suitcase, see who can spot it first."

The kids obediently lined up at the luggage carrousel. While they were watching for the luggage to come out, I saw their mother emerge from the women’s restroom and head toward the revolving door, through which all passengers must exit from those gates. Her husband waited quietly on the other side. When she emerged, it was into his open arms, for a long, full kiss and quiet embrace, just the two of them, for a good 30 seconds before they walked, hand in hand, toward their children, who’d spotted her and begun to squeal and shout, as if she were a rock star, (which in fact, a good mom sort of is, to her kids) "There she is!" "Mom, over here!" "Mom! We MISSED you!".

Shortly after the young family departed, I saw a young woman who appeared to be in her early 30's. She was perhaps 5'6" tall, with pale skin and lank dark brown, shoulder length hair, with bangs cut straight above her eyebrows. She was slightly overweight. She wore a white blouse and black pants, and plain black shoes. There was nothing particularly noticeable about her, except that in her right hand, she carried a large bouquet of fresh flowers. There was nothing remarkable about the bouquet; it was one of those assortments that you pick up at the last minute at the grocery store for about $10.00: a couple of irises, some white and yellow daisies, some purple statice and baby’s breath, but she held it carefully and looked through the glass window with anticipation in her eyes.

I glanced over at her from time to time, trying to guess whom she was going to meet. Her mother or a favorite aunt, coming for a brief visit, was my guess. Eventually, another crush of passengers began to emerge from the gate. I saw a number of older women whom I thought were likely candidates hurrying toward the exit, but none of them glanced toward the glass to see who was on the other side, and the young woman didn’t appear to be waiting for any of them. After almost all of the passengers had disembarked, a rumpled, heavy-set young man walked slowly through the gate. He looked weary, and he didn’t look up to see who might be waiting for him until he was almost in the revolving door. Then his eyes lit on the young woman, and he smiled. When he came out of the revolving door, she was there, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him hello. After they kissed, he stood back and looked at her, and saw the flowers for the first time. "Are these for me?" I heard him say. "Yes!" she said, smiling, and she held them out to him. He took the flowers, and he looked at them, carefully, admiring them. "Wow, thank you, these are great," he said. Then he slipped his arm around her waist, and they walked away slowly, together.

I’d been waiting almost half an hour, and A’s flight was supposedly in. As I waited for him to emerge from the gate, an Indian woman passed in front of me, on the other side of the glass, as she made her way toward the exit. She was perhaps in her late 40's or early 50's. She was dressed in a very plain, dark sari, and wore glasses, and her thick, black hair was pulled back neatly in a luxurious long braid that fell to the small of her back. She walked rapidly, pulling her carry-on bag, and looked neither to the right nor the left, but simply studied the ground at her feet as she walked along toward the exit.

Just as she approached the glass wall, though, she glanced up and suddenly her face was transformed by a huge smile, and she looked almost incandescent with happiness. I glanced around, and saw an Indian man of comparable age standing close to the glass. He was in front of me, so I couldn’t see his face, but clearly she was looking at him. A long absence, I thought, and she’s happy to be home.

There was still no sign of A, so I watched the revolving door, anxious to experience, vicariously, the reunion I was sure I was about to see. An Indian boy of about 12 burst through the door, and the Indian man rushed up to the boy, put his arms around him, and held him...held him...held him...and was holding him still when the woman walked through the door, and up to him. He ignored her completely, continuing to just hold the boy, his arms around him, completely covering the boy’s head with his embrace and swaying slightly, as one does sometimes when embracing a much loved child.

She stood watching the two of them for a moment before she stepped back slightly, and suddenly busied herself, for a long time, with the carry-on bag at her feet.


Lisa :-] said...

Airports are the best places to people-watch. So many much emotion. :-]

TJ said...

DFW...and I. That was a trip to remember. I took my 73 year old grama with me which by the way I discovered "RUN" was no longer in her vocabulary. LOL! We rented a car and was driving to New Mexico.
I too love airports but hate flying.
Your entry was a spark for memories. Thanks...
Love TJ

Chris said...

Your entry reminded me of when I picked Brandi up from the airport because I saw a similar reunion at the same time as watching tearful goodbyes.

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Judith HeartSong said...

thank you for this post. I, too, am a people watcher.

erarein63 said...

Wasn't this in a movie? Sleepless in Seattle or something like that? I too love watching reunions. So sad and typical of your recollection of the Indian family. By the by...I love your writing. De ;)

Melissa said...

Oh Judi, I was there with you. I loved this piece. I love to people watch and the airport is a wonderful place to do it. There is so much emotion in such a public place. I love to watch departures, the good-byes and imagine what their story is.
Your twin,

Paul said...

This entry could be made into a killer short story. You need an agent. I am cheap.

Marika said...

Fantastic post! Wonderful descriptions - I felt like I was there with you!

TJ said...

I seen on the news today you have quite a ralley going on in!

dreaminglily said...

This gave me such a warm feeling. And a little bit of panging. Miss Will a lot. Not too long until I see him again! Hopefully just another month...

Thanks for making me think about it. I needed that today.


Tammy said...

I agree with Paul, I wanted more and felt like I was there! Great job!


tina said...

I loved this. I don't think there is anything more fascinating than to people-watch .... and no better place than the airport. There is something so heartwarming about seeing a couple reunited, or children spotting a parent whom they have missed. Isn't it nice to know that you can feel good just by watching the happiness of a complete stranger ! Tina