It’s funny — in a way life can be described as bouncing back and forth between two phenomena: either giving a situation a bit more meaning than it intrinsically has, or not giving it quite enough. I’m always interested in my choice between the two in most situations, whether it be part of the city landscape I stumble upon, a brief interaction with a stranger, or any of the myriad tiny successes and failures that make up a day in the life. Of course the idea that an event “deserves” a certain amount of reverence is silly, but that never stops me.
I’ve mentioned before how as a kid I really wanted to be British. Europe, or my embarrassingly narrow vision of it, seemed to suit my temperament. In some ways the fantasy lingered into adulthood, and even my switch years ago from coffee to tea may have indirectly been a means to get closer to that English vibe. Enter this photo, which by its own merit wouldn’t win any awards but documents one of the most profound moments I’ve had in a while.
I was sitting alone on a flight from Paris to London to catch a connection to the US, and it was the start of what I knew would be a somber trip given the tragic reason for my return. We had been in the air only 20 minutes or so when the British Airways staff began its beverage service, and as I went through the motions in a haze of sad indifference the small monitor hanging from the top console suddenly caught my eye. It was the GPS graphic showing the plane’s current location. The image pulled me back into reality as my gaze darted from the screen down to my tray table, then out the window, back to the table, the screen, the window. I felt a sort of warm electricity in my gut and something happened that hadn’t occurred for days – the corners of my mouth started sliding out and upward. I was in the midst of an extraordinary experience.
I was having tea above the English Channel on my way to London.
And I was beaming like a crazy person.
I still don’t know what this looked like from the outside — anyone sitting across the aisle maybe witnessed a scene as unremarkable as a dude drinking a beverage out of a paper cup with a smile on his face. And I have to admit that’s really all I was doing on the outside, but inside I was literally living out a teenage dream. I had arrived somewhere somehow, a place far beyond just a beverage and a body of water, and it happened just when I needed it most. To anyone else it probably seems trivial and I almost feel the urge to apologize in a way, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need to. We all have memories of where we used to imagine ourselves — all the future experiences we concocted in daydreams hoping that one day reality would catch up. We bring them everywhere like carry-ons stowed in the overhead bins of daily life, temporarily forgotten during the journey but always just an arm’s length away. And if we’re lucky, from time to time, reality manages to catch up to fantasy for a split second and there isn’t anything better.
How I could resonate with this, “… all the future experiences we concocted in daydreams hoping that one day reality would catch up. We bring them everywhere like carry-ons stowed in the overhead bins of daily life, temporarily forgotten during the journey but always just an arm’s length away.”
And it’s the BEST feeling to realize the future you has become the present happy you! Especially in the face of deep sadness.
It is always a special feeling watching your children grow and learn from their experience, getting closer to knowing who they are and what they want to become. But it is especially nice when they have a special gift of eloquently sharing the journey in prose…..
Corey, as a military child with no roots to call my own, I have to say that this post is quite possibly your best AND one of the best I’ve read in any blog.
A sense of place has meant more to me than anything else in the world. Even if this moment only lasted exactly that long, it was yours. I’m sorry your flight back to the US wasn’t for celebratory reasons, but maybe that’s why you got this moment.
Aw, thanks for the kind words Dena, it means a lot. Glad you could relate to it.
I missed this post last week when I was catching up on your return–it brought tears to my eyes this morning when I read it. I could soooo understand and feel your special moment.
First, I am sorry for whatever sad event forced you to return to the States for awhile. But there is always a reason for everything, right? Even the bad stuff.
My own moment was a few years ago, when I was 53, sitting among my classmates in the chilly dampness of a May morning in New England, waiting to receive my degree in English from the college that always loomed large and inaccessible when I was a child, on a hill above the inner city neighborhood where I grew up. The Gothic church on the campus (pictured on the masthead of my own short-lived blog) was a touchstone for me as a kid, and the source of many naive daydreams of how my life would go–attending that college, marrying the prince who I was sure lived in the “castle” (the church), and of course, you guessed it, going to Paris with him. I think I was eight…
Anyway, I remember sitting there on that cold commencement day in 2009, and living the experience with such an intensity that it not only made me smile, it made me cry. I had done it. I had accomplished this seemingly impossible dream, this graduation from Trinity College, and there was no stopping me now. Paris, here I come!
Well, Fate is always around the corner, waiting to crash the party, isn’t he? I am happy to say that I’m getting stronger every day, and I WILL get to Paris, but weeks after that wonderful May morning, I developed an illness that pretty much knocked me on my ass for awhile. As I said, I’m much better, and starting to feel that I can look at my “bucket list” again. Perhaps next year, I’ll be having that croissant, or the wine, cheese and bread picnic up on a hill, in France, just as I’ve always imagined it.
Do you think it is possible to experience two “perfect moments” like that in one’s life? I do. Have fun with yours. Your blog is helping me plan to have fun with mine.
Wow, thanks elle marie. Thanks for your kindness and for sharing your experience. I think a life can have many great moments like that, and I hope your future Paris trip will be one of them. Congrats on getting your degree and for fighting through your illness. The fact that you connected so much with something I wrote is all the validation this blog will ever need.