I've had reason to take a lot of airplane flights over the past few years: traveling between various events in Chicago, Detroit, Portland, Montana, London, Seattle, Chicago, Montana, Chicago, Montana, Chicago, Montana, Detroit, etc.
Last night on a flight I sat next to a dentist named Chuck. I told him I was returning from defending my dissertation and interviewing for a job. He called me Dr. Cindy after that, several times, even in the corridor of the airport as we parted ways: "Goodbye, Dr. Cindy! Good luck with the future!"
It was almost parental. Dropping me off at the hotel a few nights ago, the chair of the department I was considering joining called me "kiddo." As in, "Well, kiddo, here we are." Is there something about me that inspires this stance? I wasn't even wearing my hair in a pigtail.
Thinking over all this today, caught in a welter of excitement and grief at major upcoming life changes and what they mean about proximity to people I love, in particular, even as they offer such beautiful and wonderful hope and opportunities to exercise my vocation, and J's, I recalled another woman, on another plane. Have I written here about her before? She was grey-haired, soft, smiling. We sat next to each other, though I can't recall the flight (airplanes have the sameness about them; in my memory, flights are not connected to their destinations, except perhaps transcontinental flights). She was a military wife, grandmother to her military sons' babies, and she had moved and settled and uprooted and traveled and loved and lost. There was a certain gentleness to her tone of voice. We talked about her past and my future, my anxieties about where I'd end up, about being far from people I loved, about living so often in the in-between spaces.
And as she stood to leave the plane, and as she walked up the aisle ahead of me, she recalled a song and sang it to me. I don't know any of the other words except the chorus, in which she liltingly advised, "Bloom where you're planted..." She smiled sweetly and sang the song up the aisle, and I forgot until today.
It's what I'm thinking about today, as I think about change, and distance, and love. I'm thinking about that song, that wise woman serenading me on a plane full of other people, with her cheerful voice. I'm going to have to learn to sing it, myself, I think.