about two years ago i found a picture of my parents. they could't have been much older than i am now, sitting there, opposite ends of the couch. i recognized the couch immediately. even though the photo is in black and white, i knew it to be an ugly, near-lime green. i don't remember the couch itself, but its cushions defined my childhood. they were the fort walls, the rocks amidst molten-lava, the movable, down-the-stair slides that my brother and i used again and again. my parents did a lot of things right. they encouraged us to read. anything. backs of cereal boxes, billboards--it didn't matter. and instead of investing in expensive furniture, they bought pieces that could double as indoor jungle gyms. hence the ugly, near-lime cushions. in fact, sitting in our living room now is a low, flat wooden table. it is stained a deep brown. and while the stain (instant-update-in-a-can) is a only a few years old, that was the table that as a child i would lie on my stomach, feet reaching to God, and spin in circles until i was sick.
that's what i see as i look at the picture. the couch. and my gorgeous parents. at a time long before they had my brother or myself. my father with his long, curly hair--a man i've never known. and my mother. leg's crossed, one hand sandwiched between, and the other just under her nose. and i know that position. it is mine (or so i thought). index-finger extended. thumb under chin. middle finger resting on the upper lip. and i am reminded of all those behaviors we learn--absorb--without even realizing it.
people that meet my parents can't decide who i look more like. everyone has an opinion, they just can't agree. in all honesty, my brother and i are pretty good mixes of both. but while i sit like my mother, and have her facial expressions, i am (in more ways than i'd care to admit) my father's child. i have my father's nervous stomach, his artistic bent.
and i, like my father, do not travel well. though to be fair, i feel like that's more learned behavior than innate construct. as a child, travel was a two day adventure. the first, an experiment in cleaning, the second an experiment in getting to the airport on time. and it was always a toss-up whether the inevitable family-fight fell on day one or day two.
the final ten minutes, before we were out the door, were the most intense (and often stretched themselves into an hour). in that period we'd unplug every outlet and rid the fridge of anything possible food spoilers (black beans, anyone?). and then we'd leave. halfway down the drive my father would turn back. i just have to check one thing, he'd say. ten minutes later, he'd hustle back into the driver's seat. and there on the consul would he find the sunglasses he'd gone in search of. at the entrance of the neighborhood we'd turn back again. this time to make sure the gas was off. over the years, these countless false-starts caused my mother and i to conspire about the the actual flight time--we'd fudge it by thirty minutes.
it was in observing this behavior for all those years that i (without even realizing) had my first thought of my future life-partner. he will not travel like my father. my father, who when traveling for business would wait for the car to arrive to take him to the airport before even beginning to pack. note: the car arrives at the time you should leave. not before. not after. and certainly not before you've tossed some underwear in a suitcase.
now it is i who become a bit of a mad woman. any venture from home, be it a day, a week, a month calls forth an inner terror. everything must be cleaned. and suddenly i cannot tolerate the full basket of laundry sitting at the end of my bed. or fathom why my sock drawer has yet to be organized (it's been months now, but only this morning did it cause angst). and i have three unwashed potatoes sitting on my desk. one sweet, the other two regular. why are they there? and have i still not taken care of that ziploc of unsorted receipts on my bookshelf?
and at what time must i leave in order to get to the airport at a reasonable hour? suddenly i feel like i'm stuck in a mathematical word problem. if it takes you 45 minutes on the A train to get from 181st to Port Authority and then another 45 to get from the bus stop to Newark airport, what time must you wake up in order to pack your bags, clean your room and get to the airport with enough time to not panic?
i fear i am doomed to repeat my father's behavior.
or that i have so rebelled against his ways that i will be the mother forcing her children to wait in the airport lounge three hours before departure (domestic, included). more likely that.
however, it was as i was standing in the bag-check-line ( because i now always check-in-online (why wouldn't you, it's so easy?)) that a woman just before me threw a hissy fit. a passive-aggressive hissy fit (the worst kind). the line was not long. and for whatever reason the man in charge of the line called the family just behind hers first. i don't know why. they had several bags and several children? who knows. as a person whose job consists almost entirely of getting people from a line (in the form of a list) to a table i know that their are countless reasons i might go out of order. if the table i have only accommodates two, i have to take my party of two, before the party of three in front of them. or i'm going to get the woman with the cast on her foot a table near the entrance and that might mean seating her before i should. the point is, at the end of the day i try to accommodate the most people at the fastest possible rate. so exceptions are made. and i know how to do my job better than joe schmo off the street. and i'm guessing this man who pulled the family out of line, does as well. unfortunately, this woman at the front of the line (the very short line, who i can't imagine was waiting there very long) did not agree. and she let the man have it. he calmly tried to explain, at which point she turned to the others in the line (all three of us) hoping to enlist our sympathy and cries of outrage. and i, as always, opened my big, fat mouth and told her to let it go, he was just doing his job. she ignored me. and continued spewing bile all the way to the next agent's booth, no more than a minute after the renegade family was whisked from the line. i stood there and watched as her two children learned their own "travel" behavior. i can't say my father never made a stink in a line. he did. i know he did. but because of that, i arrive with enough time, that if someone cuts in front of me, i don't have to sweat it.
so maybe there is hope for me. and hope for my future family. because i sure as hell don't want to be that woman. i'll probably still get crazed about swiffering and unorganized drawers. and i'll head to an nonexistent gate C-79, when i'm supposed to be at gate C-73. and i'll have to check for my passport fifty different times. and i'll have my own countless false-starts. but i'll leave time to accommodate for those delays and cuts and mistakes. time, in this instance, allows me to say what will be, will be.