I didn’t mean to help. I didn’t have a choice, really. I was shimmying back up the airplane from the lavatory, and she was just there. Our eyes met, and we started to do that little aisle dance. This time, I remembered my belly. Only, before I had a chance to turn baby into the space between two seats, the woman leaned into me, fainting. She had time to grab a headrest, but the other hand flailed. I grasped it, and we sank together to the floor in a slow motion hug.
She came to right as we reached the floor. She opened her eyes, bewildered by what had happened.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve never fainted before. But I think I can get up now.”
“No,” I countered. “I think you’re just fine right here. Let’s just hang out for a few minutes.”
So we sat.
She seemed young and fit, but she was clearly frightened. Her second hand went to mine, and we just looked at each other, all four of our hands resting on my knees, down on the carpet near everyone’s feet. It might have been five minutes before a flight attendant arrived with water, who knows – but in that span of time, the woman stopped shaking, and her head seemed to clear, and she just looked at me, thankful.
Eventually, I realized that I was still in a low squat, and my legs were screaming, and baby was squished. The flight attendant had fetched someone with better credentials than being in the right place at the right time, so I excused myself, stepping right over my new friend, and that was that.
It was a good reminder that we are, all of us, simply human, first. That we can’t always explain why we come together, but sometimes just have to be thankful that we do. And that sometimes, a touch says what words can’t.
Our trip to New England wonderful. It was snowy, and then warm, and then really good and stormy, and delicious, the whole way through. We walked on wintry beaches, and made lobster stew, and went snowshoeing, and cooked with friends, and held babies. I didn’t even bring my computer, which meant time reading, and – on someone else’s machine – joining (gag) Facebook. And we even had a little surprise baby shower. I got to whack the head off a duck-shaped pinata.
But in most cases, we never got to see the people we love quite as long as we wanted. Each visit ended with a rushed, sort of sorrowful hug, and pledges for the year to come, and in each case, we had to be satisfied with the assurance of that touch. You can guarantee long-distance love, but it’s hard to promise time.
Still, gosh, was it good to come home. Ten days is quite a long trip. And almost as soon as we landed, Seattle reminded us that we belong here. My mother drove my sister back up for college, so we saw them. Kate stopped by with Ric, and Dave and Kelly officially moved into a house just down the street from us, and Melanie and Kevin came to stay the night during the snowstorm. Here, too, we saw each of our friends for too little time.
That’s just the way it works, though. There’s never enough time.
But however precious little there is, I appreciate spending visits in the same rhythms life normally offers. I don’t like the pomp and circumstance of How are you?, and Oh, it’s been ages!, and Do you really have to leave so soon? I’d much rather ignore the distance, and help myself to a cup of tea. I like going straight to where I know the teabags are in a house I haven’t stepped foot in for months, and plopping down as if I’d been there the day before.
I had lunch with Melanie and Kevin, before they left, and it was like that. I came home from a morning working, and they’d cleaned our kitchen, like they might have in their own house. We made lunch together, six hands pitching in. It certainly wasn’t fancy, but it was healthful, and tasty, and as they walked out the door, heading back to California, we hugged, and hoped to see each other soon.
That’s all you can do, I guess.
Arugula, grape tomatoes, zucchini and Parmesan cheese make this a nutritious lunch or dinner that’s perfect for wintry weather.
TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/4” half moons
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked beans
2 lightly packed cups arugula
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
Bring the broth and quinoa to a boil in a saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.
While the quinoa simmers away, heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onion, and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and tomatoes, and cook another 5 minutes, until tomatoes are soft. Add the beans, arugula, and cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the arugula has wilted and the beans are warmed through. Stir in the cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the parsley, and season to taste.
Pile the salad into bowls, top with remaining Parmesan, and serve immediately.