Hellos, Farewells and Airport Emotions

Airports have become a place of emotion for me, a result I suppose, of travelling mainly for leisure or to visit family or to fetch family who are coming for a visit and also of having moved countries and resettling twice. Standing at the check-in counter heading to an unknown world watching the necessities of your family’s life which had been reduced to a few suitcases sliding away on the conveyor belt has the inevitable effect of the reality sinking in of being a bit lost between two worlds. I can’t recall the last time I felt neutral about a trip, such as one probably would with regular travel for work, moving through airports with numbed emotions. It would either be excitement that I’m feeling about going on a long-anticipated holiday or when we’re fetching a family member who’s coming for a visit, or sadness when we farewell someone who is leaving, but hardly ever are there no emotions involved.

Anyone who has family living far away will have experienced this in some way or another. Since our family all live in Southern Africa, when one of them comes for a visit I usually find myself at the airport amidst lots of other fellow South Africans when an SAA (South African Airways) plane is due to land, and as I get older I get all emotional seeing other peoples’ faces light up and hurry forward as they spot their loved one/s – whom they in all likelihood haven’t seen for some time –  walking out into the Arrivals hall, and I can almost feel their excitement and happiness at a long awaited reunion because I know what it is that they’re feeling. Likewise, an emotion-filled farewell moves me just as much since I know the feeling of airport farewell to a loved one too.

When our kids have travelled on their own there were some other emotions mixed in there as well – concern for their safety and wellbeing, trepidation at how they will fare on their own, excitement for their part since they were embarking on an adventure, apprehension at how I will cope without them, all the while reminding myself that the independence gained this way will stand them in good stead. Last year two of them travelled on their own for a month at the same time, making for an emotional mum (13 13 30). Of course the joy, relief and happiness upon their return and having them safely back (under my wing) is unrivalled.

When I’m the one travelling it’s become easier over time not to linger over farewells and to focus on something else instead to distract myself, such as things to do when I reach my destination, but it’s admittedly easier if you’re not the one staying behind. The person travelling does so with a purpose, whether it’s a holiday or maybe returning home after a visit to family and generally has something to look forward to for that reason, whereas those staying behind might feel a void left by the departure of their loved one who had to return to their own home.

On a lighter note, my husband travels a fair bit for work and though I don’t usually have to drop him off at the airport I once had to do the 80 minute round trip to take him his passport which he’d forgotten at home! On another occasion he was so convinced that he’d told me about his upcoming trip to Dubai (from Perth) that by the time he started packing his bag out of the blue and I asked him where he was going he looked at me in utter surprise and said: “Dubai, I told you!”, but I had absolutely no idea. The first I’d heard of it was when he started packing to go overseas for about a week. He was so sure that he’d told me but after a while of watching the sheer blank expression on my face he realised that I wasn’t teasing him and it was then that the penny dropped, a bit sheepishly I might add. He’d practiced a conversation with me about it in his mind because he thought this was going to be one trip too many and even practiced what my anticipated response was going to be, and then promptly forgot to actually tell me in person!

This time around we are fortunate enough to have a time of major excitement in our house again though, as my mum is on her way from Cape Town for a visit and in a few days’ time I’ll find myself at the airport again in the midst of some intense emotions waiting for SA280 to land. Ouma is coming!

SA280 just after landing in Perth

SA280 just after landing in Perth

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