Miranda went back to Atlanta yesterday flying out on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day has been a challenge for me in many ways over the years and yesterday was no exception. Waiting in a London hotel near the airport, I woke at 2:15 thinking it was 4:00 and got up to sip coffee and make notes in the dark as I tried not to wake my daughter asleep in the next bed.
Working on an idea for a Mother’s Day post which never made it to the blog, I filled several pages by hand on the largest paper space I could find, writing in the back of a book I had brought to read before bed. After checking her flight information online, I could see there was a problem when Delta had her listed as leaving one day later than she was scheduled to fly.
It turned out that the Atlanta flight had a problem the night before and had never left the US. Arriving at the airport early, she was able to get on a flight leaving six hours later out of Heathrow, and Delta shuttled her with the other passengers over by bus from Gatwick to wait for the flight.
She’s sleeping now in the US as I was when she sent a text message last night letting me know she made it back so we haven’t had a chance to discuss her journey. Because she was added to an existing flight, she had to take any available seat which meant she went from sitting on an aisle to being wedged between two people the whole way back.
After she knew she would be on the flight out of Heathrow, she emailed her dad to let him know the changes since he was picking her up in Atlanta. While she was typing, I noticed a man in desert fatigues coming into the airport with more backpacks and duffel bags than one person should try to manage on their own, even if as a soldier he was used to struggling with the weight of things.
I could see he was trying to pick up the various bags to strap them to his body so I went over quickly and asked to help. I didn’t really wait for an answer and picked up the military issued backpack while offering to take the duffel bag he had already lifted on to the front of his body forming a sort of counter to the large load strapped to his back.
He was almost one color with hair a bit like several shades of sand all mixed together matching the color of his uniform and all of his gear. Looking back now, I am surprised he let me help him as often travelers are warned about people offering help with an intention to harm. I guess my looking like a mom alleviated any concern he might have felt along with his travel fatigue.
As I helped him maneuver two floors up to the Delta check-in area, he told me that he had been traveling for two days from Afghanistan and was just trying to get to Atlanta so he could catch the next flight back to his home in Louisiana.
I found myself telling him how I had been in the army too, noting silently that it was probably years before he had been born from the look of him. After putting his bags down at the end of a long line of stressed looking people, he reached out to shake my hand and said, ” Thank you, ma’am,” just a sweetly as could be. I thought about how his mother was probably waiting for him in Louisiana or maybe he was hoping to surprise her by arriving home in secret on Mother’s Day and how wouldn’t she be pleased to see that even as weary as he looked to be, her boy still remembered his manners.
I asked Miranda to let me know if he made the flight and while I haven’t heard from her yet, I sure hope they found him a seat.
*Photograph by Miranda.