An imperious mid-sized woman just stopped at the row in front of me, looked down at the man in a camo cap settled 4D and pointed at the seat next to him. He stood, stepped into the aisle, and let her pass. As she scooted through, that woman with a pinched mug glowered at his country face. There are 60 unsold seats on this plane. Even for the late boarders middle isn’t mandatory.
I like being an outsider on planes where so many seem to know each other. This flight departed at 11PM. I’ll find my car in Reno Tahoe International’s long term garage around 1AM. You wouldn't expect a flight at this hour to be brimming with conviviality, but there are enough gregarious college softball players and coaches on this plane to surrender to cliché and reclassify us as the planet’s friendliest flying lesbian bar. And though it’s jovial in here I’m happy not to be a part of it. I’m tired. I’m done. And I’m glad to not have to explain my standoffishness to jolly traveling companions.
I should have been home by now, but imaginary thunderstorms rerouted my trip from SLC. The $100 travel voucher from Southwest was a nice gesture and the roasted beet and hazelnut salad in the Denver airport was worth replicating, but I’d rather see my husband while he’s awake today.
When I finally get home around 1:30AM I’ll come into the house, hear Sophie’s tags clink against each other as she bobs down the stairs to meet me, Gus’ claws irritatingly scrape against our new carpet as he army crawls from under our bed upstairs, and the heavy vibrations of my Jim’s snores. Even though the people in my house wouldn’t stir a bit if I spoke at full volume I’ll whisper loves at my creatures as they meet me halfway down the stairs. Anything but sotto voce in a dark house after midnight seems out of place. When I slip into bed, Jim will wake a little. The snoring will stop. He’ll roll over, reach for me, pull me to him, expertly find my butt with his left hand, find my head with his mouth, kiss whatever he finds—my eye, my bangs, my part, my cheek—and mutter, “My wife. I love my wife,” release me, roll back over, and resume slumber. But without the snoring this time. I’m home. He doesn’t need the companionship of his own epic breathing.
I'm on my way home from four days in Utah. I went for my nephew Van’s baptism. Eight years ago I stood at the foot of my sister’s hospital bed and watched him arrive. He was my first birth. My sisters, my parents, the person I was married to back then, they all thought I’d freak. Instead, I saw a baby crown, I saw him slide into able hands, I heard his wail, his mother’s confessions of love, and I cried. Now he’s a blond boy with a froth of freckles and a penchant for collecting—rocks, bones, thread, needles, keys, whatever seems homeless and in need of purpose.
Over the weekend I swam with the nieces and nephews, dragging them from one end of my mom’s pool to the other on a giant inflatable slice of pizza. I followed Claire’s teeny legs and bum up the ladder for the Big Slide to stop her from falling if she slipped and I held my hands underwater flashing numerical gang signs so the littles in goggles could practice their underwater breathing and burst back up hollering, “Three!” “Five!”
When I switched from my swimsuit into the nearest pair of Lululemon Wonder Unders Claire asked, “Aunt Megan, why did you change your clothes?” When she heard my reply: “Because if I go more than 14 hours without wearing a pair of yoga leggings I start twitching uncontrollably,” that perfect four-year-old brain housed behind eyes bluer the the cerulean pool lining surrounding her told her that it was a reasonable answer and she nodded with total understanding.
It’s Claire who approached me at the brunch after the baptism, pointed at the leopard high-heeled sandals on my feet, and asked, “Aunt Megan, can I wear your shoes?” Later, back at Grandma’s house, I let her. Her skills in 3.5” heels are as good as anyone six times her age. Better, actually.
Almost ten years ago my parents sold the house we grew up in. I’m not the sentimental daughter. In fact, I’m heartless. If there’s a better house, go get it. What does it matter if the walls were papered with memories and the grout darkened by six pairs of little girl feet caked with summertime and on their way to the bath? Sell it. Leave it. Find something you like better. But my sisters have souls. So my mom made us each a book of the Provo house, with photos from each room—before the remodel and after—pictures with all of us that lived there and made that place something worth recollection.
On the first night of my trip I invited myself and my parents over to my sister Cat’s house for dinner. Almost immediately upon walking into their home, my five-year-old nephew Samson took me to the bookcase to show me his Minecraft books, his preschool graduation binder, and a Star Wars picture book. “My mom has a book of her old house,” he told me, pointing up at a higher shelf. “I know,” I said, “I have that same book. I used to live there too.” His bitsy mouth formed an O and he asked, “Really?” “Yup. We lived together for a long time. We shared a room.” He went on, “In that book is a bad, bad man. He made you very sad.” He was referencing my ex-husband. “Yeah,” I told him, “We hate that guy.” “We all hate him so much,” tiny Sam agreed. And then he took me to the back room to show me his miniature violin and to the yard to show me his slide.
I don’t visit Utah often. Jim and I travel a lot but not so often to Utah. The infrequency is good in a way because it means that I get so excited to visit, and while there I’m the most interesting novelty. At whoever’s house I visit I have to see every corner, hear each story, read important things aloud, and play games (until I finally win). My parents stay awake late to talk. My sisters make the drive down to Mom and Dad’s. And I get to hear for myself that now Silas makes sense when he speaks and Walt is still enamored with his mama. And I don’t miss the sliver of time where Violet’s lack of two front teeth give her a little lisp. But my, it’s good to get to go home. As my minutes in the air slip by, the plane’s occupants settle, and I get closer to that daily routine that is my comfort and the man that makes my heart tick quicker.