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Traveling with My Memories

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 In the airport today, I waited for a delayed flight to Washington, D.C. At the gate, my natural tendency to people watch took over. The airport is such a great place for it. While I waited, I saw an older African American woman take a seat near me. She was wearing a comfortable looking purple shirt and pants, perfect for travel. Her hair was silver gray and her face was settled into a look of calm contentment. She was regal in the way she held herself. I had the sense that she had decided that she would never again hurry for anything. She walked carefully like she was familiar with and needed to avoid physical pain. She sat just as carefully but made it look like she was seating herself on a throne rather than a plastic airport seat.

After settling herself, she pulled a plastic bag out of her travel tote. She opened it and took out a little bag with two peeled, boiled eggs. She started eating an egg, staring out of the huge windows at planes moving across sunlit runways. Now and again she would dab her egg into the bag to capture some of the salt and pepper gathered in the bottom. After she finished her eggs, she dabbed her mouth with a paper napkin. She reached back in the bag and took out a plastic container of fried chicken. She sat the top neatly under the container and studied the contents for a few seconds. The scent of fried chicken floated over to where I sat and I inhaled deeply. The woman carefully chose a chicken leg and bit into it. Just then, she looked up and saw me staring.  Self-consciously, she chuckled a little. I smiled back and nodded before looking away.

I tried not to stare, pretended that I was reading my digital book. Watching that lady enjoy her home cooked meal just brought back so many memories. There was a time when black mothers and grandmothers regularly packed travel lunches just like that. Containers of chicken and boiled eggs, ham sandwiches and slices of lemon pound cake. I remember my Nana packing her famous batter dipped fried chicken for my husband and I as we prepared to leave for our honeymoon. To this day, my husband swears that it was the best chicken he has ever eaten.

So that woman that day brought back lots of memories. I was smiling when I got on the plane although my trip had been filled with delays and tough luck. My smile was for the memories. Memories of the love packed into containers of fried chicken and boiled eggs.

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From There to Here

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A few weeks ago, I got together with some of my old friends from college. You know, the kind that really know you but in spite of all that still like you. Anyway, we spent the weekend catching up with each other and remembering old times. It was amazing that so much time had passed in just a blink of an eye.

Of course, someone had to pull out those old photos. There we were, the crew from Wilberforce University.  We were eagerly posed for the camera, full of undergrad bluster only thinly disguising the fact that we were all just trying to find our way.

I saw me staring into the camera, all those years ago. Who was that naïve and arguably innocent young girl? She looked back at me with such hope and anticipation of what was to come… with a youthful confidence that life was going to be good and everything would be just fine.

If only I could tell her some things, I thought.

If only I would warn her about the bad decisions that she would make, about the miscarriages that she would grieve over, the disappointments that she would live through, the loved ones she would lose, the opportunities that she would miss, and about all the things that would seem so important but would turn out to be just the opposite. I wanted to tell her about the people she should avoid and the people she should hold on to and to be a bit more bold and not so trusting. I felt so sad for that girl who was long gone from me.

Then, it hit me. That girl had brought me through some difficult times. Her optimism was what had helped me through life’s crises and challenges. Yes, she had made mistakes but she had achieved some things too. She had had grief and setbacks, as we all will have in life, but she hadn’t let her spirit die.  She had faith and passion and courage and she was a lot tougher than she looked.

I enjoyed my friends that weekend.  I know that from now on, I will reach out more often because time flies.  But when I look at them, I see the girls that we all were and  the women that we have become.

The girl that I used to be was sending me a message across the years. She was saying that life was going to be good and everything would be just fine.  I was proud of her… and I realized that that young girl isn’t such a bad old girl either.

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