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Temporary Displacement

Updated: Jan 17

I like the not-quietness of airports. Standing in the gap with those going from here to there. Pre 9/11 my friends and I would go and sit at various gates, people watch, and make up stories about them. We would talk and laugh the way only bored teenagers could.

My adopted father worked for an airline. He grew up wanting to be a pilot and joined the Air Force but his dream was cut short because he would experience vertigo while flying. Instead, he became an air traffic controller until he was part of the mass lay-off of these workers by Reagan in the early 80s. He eventually got another job at a major airline where he worked until retirement. He always remained close to his dream and helped others live it.

A perk of his big airline job was the ability for us to travel cheaply but to do so we would have to dress up in our "Sunday best" his mother, my grandma, would say. Because she came from a time before.

Now, well now, I'm all grown, flying with my own family or for work. While I'm fortunate to do both semi-regularly, it's mostly the latter. I am more of a road-tripper when possible. Let me stop and start, let me take my time, let me see the shape of the land I'm passing through and if it so calls me, let me pause to admire it and breathe it in.

But I have learned airports have a type of reverence too. So many people in one place. All with different goals. All with their own worlds inside them. I can get overwhelmed thinking about all the lives that pass there. All the moments and memories alive vividly inside every passing person.

I have witnessed first trips, reunions, and separations. I have seen the clumsy, harried confusion of new travelers and the sleek habit-formed efficiency of seasoned flyers.

What I truly love about airports is the majority of people here are temporarily displaced. Leaving home or coming home but never quite yet home, separated by minutes, hours, and miles.

It's probably because I've experienced the feeling of displacement for most of my life. My childhood is sectioned off by chunks of time with different parents, different families, and different cities. Growing up I first had my biological parents, however shortly. Then my adoptive family, which turned into my adoptive mom and step-family, and then reunited with my biological mother's family, and finally reunited with my biological father's family.

I was never quite home, but none of those places were ever really not home either.

So maybe that's why I appreciate airports filled with people who may be more confident of where home is and is not, yet are still displaced, if only temporarily.

If I give myself time to pause, I see the magic in these hallways and gates. The beauty of watching airplanes take off and return. In the humanness of it all, in the history of it all. Humans once grounded, now in flight, built indoor cities for the in-between.


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