Airport good-byes

About to leave for the airport

You would think that the


Would be a devastating place for us:

For me, and my small boy,

And his dad.

The good-byes we say just outside security,

His dad or I knowing we won’t

Squeeze the small body

For months.


If you thought the airport was,

For us,

A scene of tears and


You would be wrong.

We made an unspoken


His father and I,

To have fun at the airport.

We send him off

With fart-kisses on his stomach

And tickles around his neck

And swooping hugs.

And laughter.

On Sunday, it was his dad’s turn to say,

“See you soon,”

And go through security


In three months,

It will be my turn to say

“See you soon,

When school starts again,


And watch them go through security


I know from experience

That for me,

The tears come at the moment they disappear from view

Behind security,

Looking not back at me,

But forward toward their


It wasn’t my turn to

Say good-bye today.

But when it is,

On the ride home

I will turn off the radio

And let the tears run.


Marriage the Second: In which our heroine wonders what business she has trying this again

Oh, and our marriage license came in the mail yesterday, too.

It was like a scene out of a sitcom:

Joe and I in a pre-marriage counseling session,

Reading through the vows we had written,

And then somehow getting into a huge fight

About who does the laundry

And how

And when

And who puts the clothes away

And how

And when.

I could feel the corners of my eyes drawing back,


And I might have been hissing

As I accused

And reared back

And struck again.

The minister,

A young guy who looks like Joe would with a beard,

Watched and listened—

I forgot he was there.

I imagine

His alarmed eyes flicking back and forth between us

Before he finally interrupted:

“Okay, okay,

This is good.

This is obviously something you need to talk about.”

Walking out to the car

Two strides ahead of Joe,

I made a decision to


And silently contemplate what business we,

Who have both failed once at marriage

And can’t even cooperate on laundry,

Have trying to do this again.

But as soon as we closed (me: slammed) the car doors,

Joe suddenly and uncharacteristically started

Talking (purging)

About his history,

And the harsh refrains that play in his head.

I softened in the driver’s seat,

Listening and asking questions.

This was new information to me.

(Will there always be new information?)

We stopped at an Ethiopian place by our house

And ordered a veggie sampler

And held hands across the torn plastic tablecloth.

“Babe, I want to be the

Best husband

You’ve ever had,” Joe said,

And I started to laugh and cry at the same time.

We went home and went upstairs to our bedroom.

And Joe turned off all the lights

But one,

And I fell asleep to him

Putting the laundry away.

I did it to myself: 7 hours in the car with my ex-husband

Didn’t expect to find myself at Union Station, Chicago on Sunday to take this picture.

It was all my fault.

I had booked a spring break trip for

My son and his dad:

The Amtrak train from St. Paul to Chicago

And a sleeper car from Chicago to Washington D.C.

My ex, who lives in another country,

Hadn’t seen his son since July

And I stoked my son up for weeks about the

“Field trip”

He and his dad

Would take on the

“Long distance train” to Washington D.C.

Sunday morning,

Departure day,


The Internet says the train is four hours late arriving to St. Paul,

So we sleep in and I call Amtrak at 10 a.m., two hours after the

Original departure time,

Thinking we’ll have plenty of time to get to the station.

“You wasn’t at the station?” the Amtrak rep says.

“Uh-oh. Amtrak sent a bus instead.

Left at 7:50 a.m.”

Phone pressed to my hot face,

I look down at my son,

Who is dancing a little jig and chanting,

“Long distance train!”

And my ex-husband,

Who is listening to my half of the conversation and,

Registering what happened,

Doing that thing he does when he’s disgusted:

A one-sided head-shake,

More of a twitch.

I look at the clock:

It’s 10:30 a.m. and the sleeper car leaves Chicago at 6:40 p.m.

“What you gonna do?” asks the Amtrak rep, rhetorically.

“Yeah, I gotta figure that out,” I say, and hang up.

“I’ll get you to Chicago,” I say to my ex. “Alright? Just, everyone relax.”

Internet search for one-way plane tix to Chicago leaving within two hours:


Gas in the Camry for the 800-mile round trip:


“We could drive. We have time,” I say to my ex.

“Really?” he says, softening. “It could be an adventure…”

“Long distance train!” yells our son.

The ex and I look at each other.

“Let’s do it.”

We load up in the car and are pulling into the alley within five minutes.

And as we pull out,

My son,

Who has no idea this isn’t part of the original plan,


“I’m excited to go on the long distance train!”

And his dad and I laugh.

Seven hours in the car with my ex.

I had thought we might have

A Talk

About our son:

Where he’ll be going to school,

Here with me in America,

Or there in Finland with him?

That’s our albatross.

But it feels right to just

Be quiet

And watch

Wisconsin roll by on a

Foggy, late-winter, early-spring Sunday.

And anyway,

Victor has so much to talk about,

So many questions,

From his little throne in the

Middle of the back seat,

Any conversation his dad and I start is

Immediately interrupted with queries about

How earthquakes work,

What trains are made of,

What happens when cars crash,

And so on.

We arrive in Chicago,

And I walk the two in:

The huge father and his small son

Clutching his rainbow blanket and his


“Is this where the long distance train is?”


I squeeze the boy against my leg,

And father and son move off into the secure area

(Train stations have them, too, I guess)

And I stop them to take a picture.

“Have fun you guys,” I call,

And then go back out to my car for the




I checked my voicemail on Monday night.

There were a bunch of messages from the weekend,

Numbers I didn’t recognize

So I didn’t listen to the messages.

A 1-800 number from Saturday.


This is an important message from Amtrak.

You have a scheduled departure from

St. Paul to Chicago on

Sunday, March 20.

That trip has been canceled due to

Inclement weather.

A chartered bus will leave the train station at

7:50 a.m.

We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

Airport reunion: My small boy and his dad

On Wednesday,

My small boy’s


Flew into town for the

Boy’s spring break.

The dad and his boy,

They hadn’t seen each other since


It’s our life,

Shared and separate:

One of us,

His father,

Who lives in Finland,

Or me,

Is always living through

Days and weeks and months of

Our son’s absence:

Walking past a




Toys neatly in their boxes,

Bed smooth with laundered sheets;

Twisting open the blinds to

Let light in,

And then closing them again at the

End of one more day

Ticked off the calendar.


A season will pass,

Or even two:

A melting or a shedding of leaves,


And then:

The airport.

On Wednesday,

I had taken off work early and

Arranged to pick the boy up from school

When we learned the plane would be late.

So we scurried around town a bit,

Holding hands to run across streets and

Jump over puddles,

And arrived at the airport at

10 p.m.

Late for a small boy

And for me.

Strung out on


Time-killing errands and

Fluorescent lighting,

We waited,

Watching travelers descend an escalator behind the

Sliding glass doors of the airport’s

Secure zone.

Victor scampering around on feet and hands like a monkey,

His dad,

To be sure,

Striding down the wide, carpeted

Terminal corridors toward us.

Not allowing himself to jog

After months of disciplined pacing,

You can’t lose your rhythm on the

Last leg of the journey.

And then,

There he was:

First time I’ve thought about Women’s History Month

My churchmate: A historian living history

It’s Women’s History Month.

I’ve never given it much thought in years past,

Which is strange because I’m a


Who cares about


In the media,

Provocative questions in order to promote a

High click-through rate:

“Is feminism necessary?”

“Are women losing ground?”

A few key statistics with

Supportive colloquialisms.

Lately, it’s my church where

I’ve been



It occurs to me that


Is the one place in my life where I’m around


Who are older than me.

My workplace is young,

My friends are

All around my age.

At church,

I like to sit a few pews behind a

Pair or

Small flock of older women.

I like to behold their


Especially the women who

Let their hair grow long and


Alabaster and ivory with

Ribbons of

Glinting silver,

And a few threads of ocher or coal.

I was at a

Women’s retreat recently with some of those women.

One of the workshops was a panel discussion with four women,

Each representing a

Decade of life from their

60s to their 90s.

The title of panel was something like

“Growing old gracefully in a

Culture that idolizes youth.”

The four women spoke in ascending order of age

In that elevated, cottony tone of an

Older woman’s voice.

The oldest woman

98 years old, I believe

Stood up to speak.

(The others remained seated.)

You know what they didn’t talk much about?





You know what they did talk about?

Their own childhoods,

And their women friends,


It was as if they had

Finished with the

Vast expenditure of


In the middle part of their lives,

And they knew their jobs were largely done


And what was left were the

Two bookends of their lives:

The treasured memories of the beginning,

And the treasured friends of the present.

From this


In the thick of


Point well taken.