Write a story about the older lady in the airport.
I recorded a memo on my phone because I wanted to remember to write about her.
I wanted to record her memory because she looked fascinating, she looked wise, but mostly, because she just looked old and faded—like something I would find in my great-grandma’s attic. Everything about her was faded; from her yellowed blouse and dusty pink skirt to her carefully applied, but probably ancient, lipstick. Her shoes looked like they belonged in the forties decade—and probably had. Remember Julie Andrew’s suitcase in the Sound of Music? Remember the bag that Anne of Green Gables said held all her earthly possessions? This lady had that suitcase. The kind that needed a key to open.
Her eyes were what drew me to her. There was wisdom in those faded blue eyes. I watched her as she studied the people rushing by—the father with the crying baby, the college kid on her phone, the tired security guard—she watched them rush by and I wondered what she was thinking. What does 2011 look like to 1956?
The plane was delayed. People complained. The baby cried. The college kid texted everyone in her contact list. Everyone was lost in their own worlds, all competing for first place in the race of their personal schedules. And I sat on the floor beside the electrical outlet with my charging phone and half-eaten pretzel and watched her sit and wait. That’s all she did. While the world rushed on a self-appointed hectic pace around her, she sat with her hands folded and her ugly brown suitcase neatly sitting beside her dusty shoes. She looked content. She looked patient. She looked like she knew more about the world than any one of the 21st century Americans around her.
I suppose for someone that had probably lived through a world war, through Pearl Harbor, through a president’s assassination, and through a country that had changed dramatically in the course of her life, there was no reason she should not, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, sit in a crowded airport in Philadelphia and wait for a plane.
I wish I had been brave enough to talk to her. I wish I had offered to take her for overpriced airport food while we waited for our plane. I wish I had asked her where she was going and why she was flying on 9/11, but I didn’t. I just sat and watched her as she silently analyzed everyone in a crowded gate in Terminal B. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do her character justice in a hastily written note for Facebook, but I wrote myself a phone reminder anyways.
Dear old lady in the airport, I wish I had said hello.