(written on the airplane Monday)
At the security gate, the attendant takes a long look at my driver’s license picture, then a searching look at my face. The picture, just over four years old, shows a woman with long, wavy hair no glasses. I stand before her in short grey hair, wearing my now necessary progressive lenses.
I am no longer young.
I may wear my hair long again someday, but I am no longer young.
In the Ladies Room I regard the person looking at me from the mirror, a woman whose hair has been many colors, letting a severe eyebrow waxing job grown in again, face still relatively unlined, visage sober. When did I become *so* serious? I make an effort to smile at people I meet, but I’m not sure how often I smile at myself.
Near the gate I search the other passengers for people who look like me. Who is my age? Where do I fit in the general categories of humanity? An elderly woman comes off the plane in a wheelchair; I’m not there yet. A mother seeks a gate claim check for an umbrella stroller, carrying a sleeping toddler adorned with a pink hat made of balloons. She seems much younger than I, though there are women my age with 3-year-olds.
A young couple waiting for our delayed stand so close together I can hardly see where she begins and he ends.
Lord knows, I am no longer one of them and perhaps I never was.
Of course they are my seatmates on the plane, which continues to be delayed on the ground — weather and traffic –a threatened "ground stop" — is that when the Earth stops turning?
The last person to board is a woman I would guess is my age. She wears a salmon-colored sweater with a little hood, dangling earrings, a flashy watch and chic hair. Nervously she checks her boarding card; she expected a window seat and does not want to believe that "D" is on the aisle. Eventually convinced, she remains restless, jumping up to ask for a blanket, then for the bathroom, finally guided back to her seat by a flight attendant as eager to take off as we are.
In line for the runway, she pulls out a magazine, Guideposts: a talisman against disaster?
The plane inches forward, each turning of the wheels raising false hope that we have finally reached the runway. From the galley I smell food that I know will not be served in my section. We will wait a long time for a Diet Coke and some crackers.
My seatmates snuggle, and I remember that not so long ago, after all, I did the same with Pure Luck on our great Southwestern excursion of 2001. he says that was a long time ago, but here on the plane it feels near in memory. We flew that night through a thunderstorm, watched lightning outside the window. We held onto each other, and if his hand occasionally rested in the neighborhood of my knee, at least it was under the airline’s insignia blanket.
I had a second chance at being young. At 39, I met a new love, who took me to unexpected destinations, inner and outer.
In front of us a thirty-ish couple patiently entertains two very small children.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad to be no longer young. Here in the middle of my life I have leisure to explore the cast of characters surrounding me, to observe and remember, to learn something about myself.
We take off. Above the clouds, a bright sky waits.