I moved this blog to a self-hosted WordPress platform at the end of February and based on some questions lately I gather not everyone caught on. I tried to get in touch with those of you who subscribed but apparently I either missed a few or it didn’t go through. Mea culpa.
If you wish to still follow along, I’d love to have you join me at http://farewellstranger.com.
I’ve only been away for two days but when I look through the 2nd-floor window and see him waiting downstairs in the arrivals area I wave furiously. He waves back, smiling big.
As I come through the sliding doors, he runs towards me. It’s the classic airport scene – mom coming home, her little boy running to greet her, big smiles all around.
He jumps at me and I scoop him up, aware of the others still waiting for their loved who are smiling as they watch us. The big reunion.
“Mama!” he says excitedly.
“Hi, buddy!” I answer, thinking about how lucky I am to have a little man who’s so happy to see me come home.
“Come and get me a new airplane!”
Little bugger. It’s less that he’s happy to see me, though I know he is, and more that he found a toy airplane when we were here to drop me off and he hasn’t forgotten. Figures mom coming home is a good opportunity to bargain for it again.
I laugh and agree to go with him so he can show me.
“I want a kiss first, though,” I say.
I get one.
As a new blogger, I’ve had opportunities recently to commiserate with other new bloggers about how hard it is to get people to come and read. Not that we write these things hoping anyone else will read them. No, certainly not. We write them for ourselves. No, really we do. Or possibly for our children. Maybe our friends and families. But certainly not because we think anyone else would care to read the thoughts that spill from our fingers onto these pages.
Anyway, I really love reading other blogs, especially new ones. I love being part of that group of people who are finding their voice, finding their story and their niche. And I know how nice it is to get comments that give you a sense of what other people think. A sense of community.
So starting on Friday I’m starting my own little meme. Sort of. Except there are no specific requirements about what you write. It’s just an opportunity for new bloggers to link up and share our words with each other.
If you’re a new blogger (and I’m going to let you define what “new” is – some people are new-new, like I am, and some have been writing for years but to a private audience) please come by on Friday. Chose one of your favourite recent posts and link up, then visit others who are in the same blogging boat.
July 21, 2007.
Running. Running so fast I almost want to laugh but I’m afraid if I do I’ll have to stop running and I don’t want to miss this plane.
Signs in German are flashing past over my head. I don’t register what they say – I’m just following numbers looking for 36N – but the fact that they’re there registers somewhere deep in my consciousness, pulling up old memories.
Your dad is running with me, darting around families and business people and little old ladies, all of whom are taking way too long to meander towards their gates, secure in the knowledge that they’re not about to miss their flight. I catch a glimpse of him, running fast but delicately, the way he does, springing off his toes as though this wasn’t a sprint. I know he probably wants to body check some of these slow people, but he’s way too polite for that.
I don’t know where your Farmor is – she’s gone on ahead, driven in a much more stately manner in one of those golf cart things that’s blessed with a horn to move the herds of travellers when someone needs to get somewhere fast. There wasn’t room for us, but I prefer the run.
I’ve been in lots of airports in my time. Lots? Enough. I’ve been fortunate with travel, confidently encouraged by your Grandma to go places I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to go. Now, running through the Frankfurt airport, the memory that’s stirring is of the first time I was here, as a shy, scared 15-year-old about to embark upon an adventure. I want you to know this feeling I have now. This knowing that it’s scary, yes. And exciting and overwhelming and life changing. To get to spend time in another country, another culture, is a gift. I’ve done it as an exchange student – here in Germany for four months, without my family, without all that’s familiar to me, without even really knowing the language – leaving me with the knowledge that I can do it. I’ve done it as a backpacker – on my own, and with others. With your dad. I’ve done it as a tourist. I’ve done it as a professional who has occasionally had to pretend that getting up and talking in front of a whole bunch of people I don’t know, who have years more experience than I do, is a piece of cake. Having done it, I know those experiences are what make me who I am. Having done it, I will always choose to do it again. I will always choose yes.
But for now I’m running. The lights overhead are bright and the airport is busy. It’s full of the sounds of people – people talking, people laughing, people rolling wheeled suitcases down laminated halls. But I don’t really hear these things. I hear your dad’s footsteps beside me. I hear my own heart pounding in my chest. I hear, occasionally, an airport announcement and I listen more closely to see if they’re calling our names.
It has seemed like ages, but it’s really just a matter of minutes and we’re there. Farmor is there and we’ve made it, with some time to spare even. And right next to our gate is a book shop. Right out front is a display featuring the latest – the last – Harry Potter book, which has just come out today. Your dad doesn’t hesitate – walks right into the shop and buys a copy.
I wish I could share this feeling with you. This feeling I have here, now, in this scene – the trip to Sweden to see family, the run through a familiar-and-yet-not airport where I first found my wandering spirit, the last-minute dash to buy a book we both can’t wait to savour. It’s a scene bursting with things that make life so beautiful and things I hope life will offer you. And when the offers come, I hope you will choose yes.
This post is in response to a new series of memoir prompts at The Red Dress Club:
For this week, we want you to imagine that after you have died and your daughter/son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred. What five minutes would you have him/her see? Tell us about them in the finest detail. Maximum word count: 700 words.
In the eyes of the boy, I am everything. I know everything. Can do everything (except build snowmen). My kisses heal wounds. My breath in the night scares away the darkness. My hugs bring him home.
I carried him then, gave him life. Nourished his body with mine. Carry him still.
To me he can say, “I love you, too” even when I haven’t said it first, because sometimes love is unspoken.
In the eyes of the boy I am perfect.
In the eyes of the man, I am the other half. The other half of one whole.
I offer what I can and he takes it, adds to it and makes it more.
If I need help I can ask for it and he gives it. Sometimes I can’t ask for it and he gives it anyway.
I have said, “I’m sorry.” And he has said, “There are no conditions.”
In the eyes of the man I am perfect in my imperfection.
To me, the boy is life and light and lilting laughter. He is me and he is the man: he is the poignancy of potential. He’s also his own person and don’t you dare mess with that.
He is perfect.
To me, the man is the source of much of the best of the boy. He is more – much more – than I knew when I met him. He is my patience and my strength. He is rational when I’m not. He laughs when I can’t.
He is love, and love is perfect.
I’m lucky to have them, these two. My two.
This blog had a bit of a rebirth last night. When I first carved out a space for myself here I gave no thought to what it would be called. This is unusual for me, because normally I think about these things. But I was ready to write so carried on regardless.
With those first thoughts on the page, an identity formed. An identity that needed a name.
But what to call it?
I thought about it for a bit. Kept a mental list of words and criteria and definitely-nots. Then one night I tweeted about this conundrum. I had intended to send this tweet out to the Twittersphere and then go to bed while waiting to see where it led me, but then someone responded. It was Kris from Pretty All True. For those who don’t know her let me just say that when Kris offers to help think of a name, you don’t turn off your computer and go to sleep.
In an attempt to make a long story short, the process basically went like this:
Kris had been listening to the Magnolia soundtrack and suggested some song names from that that seemed to fit.
I liked her suggestions.
In looking at the list, another song title jumped out at me: “Goodbye, Stranger” by Supertramp.
It stuck in my head even after I played around with some other names.
A week or so went by and, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I started thinking about a name again.
I went back to the messages from Kris.
I went back to “Goodbye, Stranger.”
I suggested it to my husband.
He pointed out that the song is about a one-night stand (or recovering from drug addiction, depending on who you believe).
True to form, he came back with another – better – suggestion.
And thus, “Farewell, Stranger” was born.
The name suits me for a number of reasons. In telling this story, I’m saying goodbye to a version of myself that I didn’t know and didn’t understand. I think that’s what jumped out at me with the Supertramp song. But whether I care about the one-night stand connection or not (and I’m not sure I really do) “fare well” works better, because this is about getting better – my wish for myself and my attempt to finally make it happen.
It’s also about taking off my mask and – slowly – letting people see past the person I’ve pretended to be.
And, without trying to be too corny, it’s about opening myself up to the community of people I’ve found here and seeing their experiences instead of only seeing my own.
So farewell, stranger and welcome to whatever comes next.