Sport 24: Summer 2000
I am most religious in a plane. Praying. The double layer of perspex has dust between and I read the magazine after a while but only if we are over clouds. Sometimes the central mountains are visible. There's orange juice in a little plastic cup with foil on it.
My son comes off the plane with his jacket pockets stuffed with cellophaned boiled lollies. I forget about that time and now I remember the waiting. Driving to New Plymouth airport, sitting while families slide into the building. There's music and the TV going. A black cat lives here. Sparrows fly in and out. He always wants something to eat when he gets off the plane. We do this every month for a year. On and off the plane. Each time he's grown and he's more beautiful than I can hold in my mind over the weeks apart.
The last time he's the last off the plane and the door is round the back. I know it's the last time. It's over. The year is over. Holidays together, then we'll all be in Wellington. For a change I don't dress up, just a T-shirt and jeans. There he is, golden and brown and freckled. Tears spill out in relief. I didn't know how it was until the end. We give his ‘un accompanied minor’ badge back to the flight attendant. He hugs me and we hold hands all the way to the car. We buy avocados on the way home.
I saw lots of tears in the airport last year. Families, lovers with flowers, a young woman who had been away from home a long time, returning. Lots of tears. We smile at each other, the greeters, all up against the aluminium railing, with our fingers in our ears as the plane comes down from the sky.
When I stood watching the plane take off with him each time, I remembered when I'd caught the plane to Auckland. My son and my partner waved me off. I watched them until the plane was too far away and they stayed waving. Waving and waving. Until the plane was out of sight. Even though they couldn't see me.
The word is shining like water,
round and smooth as a marble.
The word burrs on your socks like a bidi-bid,
makes you cry like an onion.
The word in your hand,
the word in your mouth.
The word given back after a long borrow.
The word like the smell of mown grass,
used and never used up.
Soaking up water.
Wrapped about us
in the night like a prayer.
Bold and determined as a train.
The pages of old love letters are tucked into small envelopes.
People who are now dust are speaking,
using the word as it is written.
It will do us.
We do what we can with the word.