Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Leaving on the evening plane to Boston

I almost wish I hadn’t gone home to visit my family this weekend. At least then I wouldn’t have needed to say goodbye.

“When are you coming back?” my 7-year-old niece asked, her arms forming a vice-grip around my waist. I arrived in town Saturday for her dance recital. It was Monday, and as quickly as I’d come, it was time for me to leave.

“I don’t know, honey,” I coaxed. “Maybe Christmas. But I’ll be back.”

“Noooo,” she cried. “I don’t want you to go.”

I didn’t want me to go either. But I had to catch a 7 p.m. plane back to New England so I could go to work the next day.

I’m a young newspaper journalist. And by default, sometimes it gets lonely.

Don’t get me wrong. I have friends. They stay in New York or Boston or D.C. or Florida or somewhere else other than Rhode Island.

But this isn’t the missing-my-friends kind of lonely. This is different.

It’s the kind of lonely that can only be satiated by a big plate of your mother’s collard greens, cornbread and yams, or by a big hug from a young child.

It’s the kind of lonely that when it disappears for a few days, hours or moments, it makes it all the harder to return back to your life alone hundreds of miles away because you know it’ll come back and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The opportunity for travel and the excitement of strange new zip codes excited me. Each day could be a different place, a new city, a great story. Hypothetically, I could be sent to Istanbul one day, Oklahoma the next and hit up China on the weekend. The promise of seeing far off lands was part of what attracted me to the profession. I would actually be able to experience the world that, as a child, I’d only heard about.

But in the real world, as a young journalist, you often end up in less-exciting places like Burrillville, Rhode Island, writing about a hurricane benefit or school graduation. Vacation time for the newly hired is usually limited and money for plane tickets is scarce. So you plan visits around the major holidays you don’t have to work or try to squeeze your family into some random three-day weekend.

If, in journalism school, they never told you how hard it really is to go back to an empty apartment hundreds of miles away after you’ve spent a weekend with your family, let me drop a little knowledge on you:

It sucks. Hard.

It had been seven months since I’d last seen my family.

In that time, a niece whom I’d held moments after she came into the world learned to crawl and was beginning to walk. Another niece was beginning the third grade and practicing hip hop moves. My mom had bought the lot next to my childhood home – the house that previously stood there now demolished. One friend now had a six month old son. Another was seven months pregnant. Still another was starting the second semester of her sophomore year in college, while another was now, almost a year out of jail.

It’d only been seven months, but when I returned home this weekend, I felt that I was missing out on everyone’s lives. It’s easy enough to forget.

Each day, it’s our job to spring in and out of someone’s life – usually at the lowest points – and tell their story. We learn their heartaches, struggles, triumphs and their losses. We become their friends for 24 hours – longer if it’s a Sunday centerpiece. Then we disappear and move on to the next person, the next tragedy, the next story. You just keep moving in and out of other people’s lives that you sometimes forget that all around you life is still happening for those you love. And when you realize it, it’s almost like a slap in the face or a ton of bricks - choose your own metaphor.

I think this weekend was too much for me. But I needed it so desperately.

I hugged my niece hard and told her I loved her and that I’d see her soon. I tried to sound convincing not only for her, but for myself. I don’t want it to be another seven months until I see her again, but I know most likely it will be.

So, I’ll fly into town with Christmas presents and snap dozens of pictures of everything I’ll see. I’ll eat too much fried chicken and take some cornbread back with me in my suitcase. I’ll hug everyone and tell them I love them and that I’ll miss them. I’ll make promises to visit again soon.

I’ll get on my plane and watch the city lines turn to puffy white clouds, each minute putting more and more miles between my family and I. Then, I’ll turn my head to the window and try not to let my seat mate see the tears flowing from my eyes.

Posted by T Dot at 1:48 PM | link

Read or Post a Comment

This blog is such a great idea...

By the way, is the pic of you under the "A little more about us" tab from that Italian restaurant we went to during Christmas. i swear to God it looks familiar.

Posted by Anonymous Jessie @ 5:30 PM, June 13, 2006 #

Yes, ma'am, it is. Veronica stole it from Facebook (thief!). Glad you like it. Come back often. :-)

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 8:37 PM, June 13, 2006 #

you describe how i feel...every time I go back to Boston

Posted by Blogger spchrist @ 11:45 AM, June 14, 2006 #

it is a good idea and i'm jealous i wasn't asked. how bout i went back to charlotte for the first time in 8 mos. and i didn't want to leave. but i knew i couldn't come back either. it'll probably be another long while before i do. i need some more growing.

Posted by Blogger jameil1922 @ 12:49 PM, June 17, 2006 #

"You just keep moving in and out of other people’s lives that you sometimes forget that all around you life is still happening for those you love."

Okay this has kind of sort of summed up my trip to Italy. I'm participating in an international reporting practicum in hopes of gaining more experience, more insight, and more confidence in my skills. At the same time while trying hard to learn, and to enjoy myself, I must contend with feelings of being out of the loop. Granted it's only four weeks but any time is hard time when it's away from the people you love.

Posted by Anonymous CNEL @ 4:59 PM, June 17, 2006 #
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