What I cherish about shiva
One from the archives: Preparations, a Shabbat poem

Unexpected gifts

At an airport restaurant in Boston I withdrew my kindle from my bag. It's the kindle Ethan gave me when Drew was born; I think of it still as "the nursing kindle," because it made possible the act of reading-while-nursing (and, even more importantly, reading while my sacked-out son slept on me.) Reading a book while holding a sleeping infant was impossible; the crinkle of turning pages (not to mention the movement) would wake him straight away, but the small thumbclick of the "next page" button didn't. It was a godsend.

Anyway, last week I purchased a few books I've been wanting to read -- Ted Conover's book on roads, Anne Lamott's journal of her grandson's first year -- and last night as I sat down for a sandwich before my flight, I pulled out the kindle, ready to read. Alas! The screen was broken. I fiddled with it for a while, but it was pretty clear: this was, as Monty Python might have said, an ex-kindle.

I hastily downloaded the books onto my phone (now doing triple duty as phone, camera, and e-book reader) and resolved to look into the kindle paperwhite when I got home. Then it was time for the transatlantic flight. The so-called "sleep" over the ocean is better left undescribed. Upon arriving at Heathrow, though, a real gift was waiting: breakfast with my parents.

My parents live in Texas, where Drew and I visited them a few weeks ago. Long story short, they're joining some friends on a tour of (parts of) India this month. To make the travel and the shift in time zones slightly easier for them, they flew into Heathrow a day before the rest of their group and spent the night in an airport hotel, getting a good night of sleep in a real bed before embarking on the eight-hour flight to Delhi. As it happened, they had a few hours of layover between waking up in their airport hotel and departing for India. And those few hours matched precisely the few hours of my layover between one flight and the next!

Even though it had sounded as though the stars might be aligned for us, I was dubious. (For one thing, there's a transportation strike in Barcelona which had caused my first flight to be canceled; though the airlines claimed they were rebooking me on a later flight, who was to say it too wouldn't disappear?) And Heathrow is enormous. Who was to say we would actually be able to find each other, even if our layovers did magically overlap?

I didn't entirely believe it was going to work until I saw my mother standing outside a Duty Free shop. What a joy, to see my parents in this unlikely way, so far from home! We found a place which served oatmeal (just the thing for our slightly travel-addled systems) and we talked about their trip and my trip and how incredibly blessed we all feel to be able to do this travel at this moment in our lives. They'll see a few things in India which Ethan and I saw on our 2002 trip (I told them to keep an eye out for the monkeys at the Taj Mahal at sundown), though they'll also see places I didn't get to go. And I'll see things in Barcelona which will be new to them (it's a city they haven't yet visited), though our trip will be far shorter than thers -- a mere 3.5 days, attached to Ethan's speaking obligation at News X Change.

When we saw our gates listed on the overhead board, we regretfully hugged and parted ways, wishing wished one another bon voyage. "Enjoy every moment," we said to each other, and beamed.What a sweet little interlude. The chance to sit down for breakfast with my parents is rare enough now that I live a thousand miles away, but the chance to do so in London, as our paths temporarily crossed on our various arcs across space and time zones? Priceless.


Breakfast at Heathrow with Mom and Dad!