Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sending Off

They arrived at the door when I was still packing. As usual, I first heard them argue, then I turned around to see their clumsy figures moving into view.  Mom bumped into things like the gate left ajar or the tiny step leading to my front porch.  Dad watched her in hopeless distress, as if the twists in his eyebrows alone could reverse time and remove the harms done to his wife.

They rang the door bell, as if the rhapsody of pots and pans knocking onto the patio floor wasn't enough to get everyone's attention.  I opened the door to help them inside.  They carried a full meal with them, that is just how they traveled, especially to visit me. Over the years, I'd learned to be grateful when that was all they brought.

The smell of dumplings, vegetables cooked in ginger and garlic, and salted beef filled my tiny apartment and made my stomach growl.  I rushed to finish packing,  stuffing the last items along the sides.  I was sure I packed everything, but sometimes that still didn't seem enough, somehow.

We ate quickly.  Mom asked me whether I had this and that, panics growing in her voice with each item she was sure I had forgotten.  I reviewed their locations in the suitcase with her, throwing everything out of orders.  Dad paused and checked my travel documents and made copies to keep with them.  He walked briskly between the printer and my bags, stuffing everything neatly wherever they belonged.  I watched him without knowing how to help, my heart quivers at the sight of his legs bent from age while walking the stairs. His salt and pepper hair drew streams into the space before my eyes, back bending up and down like an arched bow.  I got up to wash the dishes, letting the gushes of water slip through my fingers as I scrub and rinse.

We walked outside to find another sunny California day.  I ducked into the sun warmed back seat and closed my eyes.  Dad was at the wheel but mom was driving.

"Slow down, you are gonna kill that person."
"Oh my god, why did you just do that?"

We got the driving coach side of her, commanding and snappy. She threw up her hands and took over the steeling wheel once, then the emergency break.  The short ride to the airport jerked along, and I feel breathless and dizzy. 

The commuter terminal was the size of a petri dish.  After checking in at the counter, I hugged them goodbye at the start of the security line.  It was an awkward western gesture for them, but they tried pleasantly to accommodate me. I could feel the frail frames of their shoulders shrank to childlike proportions under my arms. The years had slipped by all of us unnoticed,  cruelly taking away their statures while mine grew.  Was it not yesterday, when their arms held me and the world still on the first day of kindergarten; when I waved them away through hair and tears both fighting to get into my eyes.

That bit hadn't changed perhaps.

As I stripped for the security scans, I looked back to see them standing just at the other side looking on. Somehow we've found ourselves in the land of the giants, and they shifted, constantly to keep me in view, two dark gray heads bobbing in a sea of tallness.  Each time I made another turn in the winding snake lines I turned to check and I'd see, there they were, hands waving at the sight of me turning.
Photo courtesy of the Internet - you know, Google etc.

For a while I saw a too small child held in their arms again.  Me, and this too big world.


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