“Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”
My heart beats faster with those five words as my destination comes into view on the descent to the airport. I’ve been here before but there is a different sensation in my bones now.
The weeks prior to this specific landing, I had taken a handful of flights all across the United States to catch up with family and friends and say my tough - but necessary - “I’ll see you later”-type goodbyes.
And that’s what traveling to see friends and family is all about, isn’t it? The English Breakfasts and Americanos at Starbucks at ungodly hours to see a college friend who has three children and is not able to get away from the house other than at half five in the morning. The runny egg and bottomless mimosa brunches with a former roommate who is busy beyond belief but sets aside time to further the friendship. The Happy Hours with parents (who are paying for the drinks, of course) so it’s time to get a bit adventurous and try one of the craft beers that’s been on that “need to try” list, or that one cocktail that can never be made nearly as great at home. The homemade dinner with siblings, a meal that only exceeds expectations, not just because of the exceptional taste of the food, but because of the cherished conversation.
Although most people hate goodbyes, it’s the “I’ll see you later”-type goodbyes that further travel for me. It means that you’ll be visiting again for those early morning teas, raucous brunches, lively happy hours, and lovely dinners. It means there’s an agreement between family and friends of showing the photos and videos of daily life, regardless of how many days or months or years it has been. It means there’s a promise of catching up again.
The tearful but loving “I’ll see you later”-type goodbyes will eventually be replaced with welcoming hugs and kisses - the promised catch-ups - when we have those times of travel again. I’m sure of it.
On the plane’s descent, the scenery is different than it has been before. During past trips, there have been clouds and rain as the football stadium on the River is spotted. This time, it’s sunshine and partly cloudy; it’s a lovely autumn day with a gleaming new stadium seen in the distance, a little north of the city center.
I look out the small oval from my window seat and I realize I’m home, even if it’s only for a year and change.
“Welcome to Heathrow.”