I am a mile above earth's surface and there is a well-dressed stranger sitting next to me. He’s attractive. He’s not wearing a wedding ring. He’s sleeping. If it weren't for that airplane window, he’d be leaving a trail of drool across the Midwest. It’s all very endearing.
So naturally, I'm furiously thumbing at my phone, typing as fast as I can, trying not to stare.
*DING! The seatbelt signs turns off.*
You are reading my attempt at fighting the hormonal urge to wake up this complete stranger and ask if he'd like to start a family with me, a la "Mile-High Club." Don't worry, I won't. Social anxiety won't let me do that.
Mr. Midwestern Drool and I are in a plane headed to my hometown of Atlanta, GA where I get to spend Christmas and New Year's hugging my niece (and everyone else) in between bites of BBQ and black-eyed peas. To my knowledge, Mr. Drool will not be joining us.
Obviously, family is on my brain.
*flight attendant sets down a tiny cup of hot tea on my tray table*
I moved out to the Pacific Northwest after college, which means it's been over a decade since I've had relatives living nearby. That's a tough sentence to type. I need to type it again...
It's been over a decade since I've had relatives nearby.
*I sigh and Mr. Midwest Drool stirs from his slumber*
My dad's side of the family is very close. Time in Atlanta is full of laughter, re-told & recycled stories, Southern cookin', and a deep heritage of hospitality.
It's been way too long since I've seen them.
I missed out on making memories with them this summer due to recording of my upcoming album, "Velveteen," which overlapped our family vacations.
I'm not proud of missing out on time with them, but I am proud of the music I and my team recorded.
*A package of cookies appear next to my cup of tea.*
I haven't seen my immediate or extended family in over a year. I know I cannot get back the time I have missed with them. This is a truth which deeply stings me.
I feel just how much I've missed my hilariously imperfect yet very proper Southern family.
*The flight attendant places my empty cup of tea in her trash bag.*
Perhaps the distance and time away has numbed the hole my family leaves in me. But it still aches from time to time.
Writing songs and making art makes the pain subside just a bit, but only temporarily. Because most days, the sparkle of that brand-new song, newly booked concert, or enterprising creation seems so dull and trivial when compared to Family, with a capital F.
*Our plane lands on the tarmac.*
Mr. Midwestern Drool has woken up with the landing. We haven't said a word to each other. He puts in his headphones to listen to what sounds like heavy metal. Now I'm the one salivating.
I send a group text to everyone picking me up from the airport. A flurry of emojis are sent back and forth.
*DING! 100 seat belts click open and everyone futilely tries to stand up all at once.*
Family will pick me up from the airport. It will feel a little awkward, because it's been so long.
There will be new haircuts. The babies will be older. The adults will have more wrinkles. Poppop will be more cantankerous than usual and we won't blame him. Mom will lose her cool and no one will understand why. Mumsie will be significantly aged from hospice care. We will understand why. Talking about politics will be avoided, mostly.
And we will laugh. We will share meals. It will be the same and different.
*The baggage carousel starts up and rows of suitcases begin their march home.*
Only time and a lot of hard work will tell if missing out on family during this last year will be worth it. Until then, I'll be hugging my niece and nephew (and the rest of my family) as much as I can.
*I spot my suitcase and grab it.*