Age is not only measured in years. Personally, I’m three houses, approximately 6,000 songs, and 1,825 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches old. I can also measure my life in trips to the airport. Each time I fly, one more trip documents my life.
When I was six airport trips old, my mother, sister, and I drove to Kennedy Airport to fly to England, where my
father was waiting at our new home. As the grown-ups around me shed tears, I could barely contain my excitement about our “vacation,” unable to grasp what moving across the Atlantic Ocean really meant. Eight hours, three airplane meals, and zero hours of sleep later, I arrived at Heathrow Airport, now seven airport trips old.
England holds my greatest memories. There I learned to read, which introduced me to the world of literature, a world I escape to whenever given the chance. I saw firsthand how people’s attitudes can make all the difference – my family was dropped headfirst into British society, but fell onto a pillow of hospitality and caring from everyone around us, including the local cashier who called me “Poppet” and “Love” and our postman who rode his bike around town.
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Those four years shaped my perspective from the first day of school in year two (first grade) to my last night in the country when my family’s closest friends sat on lawn chairs with us late into the night in on packed-up house and cherished our last moments as neighbors.
My sister and I straddled three countries when I was 16 trips to the airport old. The airport in Germany is built right over the border of Switzerland, Germany, and France. Being so young and unaware of how privileged we were to be two young globetrotters, my sister and I took our locations for granted and viewed places like Rome’s Coliseum and Paris’s Eiffel Tower as our playground.
It wasn’t until a few airport trips ago that I came to appreciate how the trips around Europe influenced my life. I have a greater understanding of the world as a whole and know that there is something beyond the United States and the way we view the world. My appreciation for history has expanded as I learned about the countries I visited, knowing I have walked through buildings hundreds of years old, each scuff on the floor a tribute to those who have come before me, whose mistakes I must learn from and whose lives have shaped the world of today.
This summer I turned 44 airport trips old when I traveled once again to meet my grandfather in Chicago for a Donauschwaben festival. My grandfather was born into this ethnic group unfamiliar to most people, including me, until recently. Being a German in Yugoslavia (now Siberia) during World War II, my grandfather and his friends and family were expelled by the Partisans. I heard firsthand accounts of great loss and hardship. As I’ve learned about my heritage, I have come to appreciate the life I was born into, and am beginning to understand my personal history and the history of my mother’s family.
In college I plan on spending a semester in Austria in order to work on my German and experience Europe again. Regardless of whether I am 46 or 60 airport trips old by then, I am
eager to continue my journey in the sky, a journey I am excited to know
has barely begun.