Leaving from Austin, Texas where I had spent 48 hours with college girlfriends celebrating 25 years of friendship, Captain Eric of our United flight made his way back to row 28 looking for a woman named Ally. When Ally identified herself, actually in row 26, Captain Eric introduced himself and thanked her for her service. “I heard you do a lot of work for people in need, and I just wanted to tell you that it does not go unrecognized.” She was humble and appreciated his words and he told her that anything she wanted or needed on this flight was on him. Then he joked with the rest of us that he would do his best to get us in to Boston a little early. Clearly a man of good charm and good smiles, accustomed to making people feel good about their days. Immediately, I wondered what kind of “good” this Ally does in the world. Was she a bilingual lawyer assisting families trapped in the immigration nightmare that is the reality of these border states? Was she one of those people who fought for human rights? Rights for the disabled? Perhaps, she ran a half way house for addicts or criminals finding their way back to society after being on the outskirts for years? Homeless shelter? One of those moms who adopted seven siblings and ended up on the Ellen show winning $50,000, a family vacation, and a giant van to transport them all in? Hard to say.
I like that he came all the way back to thank her for her service. I like that I’m reading the classic Anna Karenina on this flight as I’ve meant to read it for 25 years and another title always gets in the way. I like that my book club ladies told me I needed to watch the Car Karaoke with Paul McCartney because my day would be better and remind me of my Beatle love. Back in my early days of adolescence, I listed to the Beatles a lot, along with Diana Ross and the Supremes, and really anything Motown. These were not normal tunes for people my age to listen to, but the lyrics told a story, and I love a good story. If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to even if the Beatles weren’t your thing. The storytelling piece will make you think of your very own Penny Lane, and maybe that first time you sang, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” in your heart even if not out loud, and all those times when wise people in your world reminded you to take your time with decisions— to just “Let it Be.” The episode finishes with this poignant rendition of “Hey Jude” when everyone in the bar sings along with Paul and the crowd knows all the words and their energy is palpable and the line, “When you let her under your skin, and you begin to make it better,” makes you tear up a little bit because you got to marry someone who brings out your best traits too, and also happens to “love you, yeah, yeah, yeah” a lot and vice versa.
And I’d never been to Texas before, but I would sure like to come back with my family. Austin’s vibe was super friendly and musical, with a twist of hippy dippy artistic roots, diverse and peaceful and a perfectly good place to hold a rally for uniting families. No doubt I had never been hotter in my life than walking the streets of Austin, bound for the capital to be present at the pink limestone building where crowds of families held signs in support of keeping families together. So that later in the night after we had dinner and drinks, we found ourselves in a karaoke bar where my Connecticut College lady friends Sarah, Lena, and Meg belted out the best of Bon Jovi’s “Living on Prayer” to a crowd of millennials who sang right along with them. “Take my hand, and we’ll make it I swear, whoa, livin’ on a prayer.” That’s what we do. Maybe I don’t pray as much as I should. Maybe I need to take my children to church more often, especially after a recent funeral when the priest kept referring to Jesus Christ, and Greta kept asking why he was swearing so much. Maybe we Let it Be and Live on a Prayer and do karaoke once a year to keep it all real. Grateful to get away with old friends, explore a new city, read books on airplanes– yet, I was even happier to return to my mountains, cold rivers, crazy family, and seven more weeks of summer vacation. Thank you to everyone who helps to facilitate my “maybe once a year” weekends away!