Whiling Away the Airport

I don’t travel by air often, but when I do, I like to imagine what might happen when I’m whiling away the time at an airport. Sometimes I imagine desperate renegades (of course, I’m the hero), or interactions with other of the waiting passengers. I discovered one of my fictional pieces today, and I share it:

On my way home from Michigan, I had a 2-hour layover in Chicago. My flight arrived early and, if all went according to schedule, I had two hours and forty-five minutes to use up before I could board my next flight.

I had already grabbed a bite to eat and wandered around enough to work my cramps out. I figured it was time to make my way to the boarding area and read my book for the remainder of the wait time. As I neared the gate, I was surprised and dismayed to discover how crowded it was. After an in-depth perusal I discovered that there were, in fact, only four seats available. I didn’t usually like sitting next to unknown persons; I would have enough of that, after all, during the next flight. I was ready to take a load off, though, so I chose a seat near a frazzled looking young woman holding a newborn. She also had a three-year-old who kept trying to escape. The three-year-old had her own chair. I looked at the woman and pointed to the empty seat next to the little girl’s.

“May I take this seat?”

She looked up at me and all but rolled her eyes. She sighed and reached for the little girl and started prodding her to remove her hands from the seat I was eyeing. “Come on, Tanya. Move this way.”

Little Tanya was compliant, but active. Fortunately, the newborn was sleeping; however, I guessed that a sleeping baby now meant a crying baby during the flight, and hoped that my airline seat was far from this little family’s.

I took my seat and found myself the target of a small pair of inquiring eyes. Tanya was standing quite still and staring at me, in that blatant way that kids have. I was intrigued by the sharp intelligence I sensed in the light of those eyes. I squeezed my lips together to make fish lips and puckered at her. The eyes remained intense. I relaxed my lips and wiggled my nose. The fluff of her eyebrows went up. I worked my lips again, and watched as the tiny pink bow of Tanya’s lips pursed and moved, as though she was remembering how to suckle. As I wiggled my nose, her lips and nose waxed and waned in an attempt to copy my movements.

I glanced at the mother. Noting her sentry eye on Tanya, I held her gaze as she looked at me.

“I’m a retired teacher,” I said. “I’m wondering if little Tanya knows any sign language, or if she might like to learn a song.”

The woman shrugged. “I guess.”

I started singing softly, and moved my hands to sign the words to You are My Sunshine. Tanya watched me intently, eyes darting from my face to my hands.

At the end of the chorus, I said to her, “Now you help me sing. You can move your hands, too.”

“You are my sunshine,” I sang and signed slowly. I was careful not to reach out to Tanya to assist her hand movements, as it would scare her mother, and kept my signing hands close. “ooo, you’re good!” I exclaimed between lines, and I gave her an encouraging smile.

I was amazed and taken aback at the dazzling smile Tanya gave me in return. A pretty child to begin with, she was transformed into a cherubic beauty of fairytale features. I gasped and stared, transfixed. Again, I glanced at the mother. “She’s beautiful!” I exclaimed.

Mom’s face softened and she smiled. “Yes, she is. She doesn’t usually smile for strangers, but it looks like you’ve really tagged her.”

We continued chatting and singing and signing until the flight was called. We didn’t end up sitting near each other, but Tanya and her mom waved and smiled to me as they passed.


4 thoughts on “Whiling Away the Airport

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