I caught a glimps of the sign as I hurried. I was trying to walk on the right side of the moving sidewalk and not to topple my luggage. Not an easy task with too little sleep and not nearly enough coffee.
“Next flight: Cleveland 10:15 a.m. Now boarding.”
Part of me wanted to board that plane and go back to where I grew up. And part of me wanted to run as fast as I could to my next flight and get far, far away.
Sometimes the mere glimpse of something familiar knocks the holy breath out of me.
There’s power in the places and words that remind us of places of our past. Memories echo if we linger a bit. And that’s not always a bad thing: the looking back so we can look forward.
Seeing that sign pointing toward the place of my youth didn’t churn up things that it once did. It didn’t make me feel like an insecure teenage girl there in the snow banks of a Cleveland suburb.
That sign made me remember the girl I was. The good things about that girl. The girl that maybe I have always been.
If I hadn’t spent so much time running away from her.
The girl who laid on her back under the trunk of the weeping willow in my own backyard and daydreamed, staring at the waving leaves that looked like tiny waterfalls swaying from the branches. The girl who stirred maple syrup slow until it turned into sweet candy at the annual Maple Festival on our town square, in the shadow of the old brick courthouse.
The girl who noticed the world around her and giggled loud with her brothers. And slid down snowbanks and ice-skated on the pond until even hot chocolate didn’t seem warm enough to remedy the chill in my bones.
That airport sign conjured up memories of the secret clubhouse that we formed in that old barn and the shenanigans that we pulled on our parents. The times that I couldn’t breathe from the laughter watching cartoons on Saturday morning.
And the way that the crucifux made me grateful as I stared at it in the front of our church. Even though I didn’t completely know why, I still felt gratitude staring at Jesus hanging there at that young age. I just knew that the pain must have stood for something if we were remembering it so prominently. And it stirred something in me to want to know more about a man who would do that for a messy girl like me.
“The Prom Dress”by Norman Rockwell
I thought about all these things as I fueled up with coffee for the day ahead. I smiled and muffled a tear or two, in the remembering. And then I picked up my luggage and I traveled 6 gates further to board the plan bound for where I had been called to go.
As I settled into the seat on the my last flight of the day, a plane ride that was stretching me in faith and at the same time carrying me to familiar soil, I heard the announcement loud and clear:
“Please remember that the nearest exit may be behind you.”
I smiled to myself.
Maybe sometimes we do need to look back to remember before we fasten our seatbelt for what might lie ahead. A glance back at the beloved moments that scatter our lives. Maybe the escape from anything that tried to entrap us was there all along. The exit sign was clear in the willows and the maples, in the laughter and the innocence. If we looked.
And mostly, maybe who we are was always there. There in the crucifix that displayed the amazing grace hanging in front of any messes we might create.