The thing is… I never really thought about it before, but just now it hit me – I’ve worked my way through so many emotional moments in Dublin airport since I began living abroad, that I can probably trace most of my significant ‘life changes’ back to small passages of time spent to-ing or fro-ing through it!
First were the early trips to Amsterdam (mid-80’s), my mother smilingly waving me off through held-back tears. Her large blue eyes unable to hide how much I would be missed. My father, silent, watchful, quietly pressing a sneaky roll of cash into my hand at the last moment “just in case”.
The dreadful 6am flights, leaping out of bed in the pitch dark, a race to the airport along the back roads of North Dublin, my sister careening the car along at a fast pace, her sleepy eyes barely open with the burden of two toddlers lying heavily across her shoulders. Never allowing me to take a taxi, this was ‘our thing’, she wanted to be the one to get me there and get me there she did. A last, huge hug before I wafted towards the security gate, invariably setting off the alarm before being hauled up for a body search. She’d giggle through the glass wall, watching until the last moment. I’d keep my eyes on her, imprinting her image into my memory to carry me through the next months.
Happy arrival scenes two years later when I showed up with an engagement ring. Joy, laughter, excitement. Partings less sad than usual because a return trip was already planned and celebrations were still to come.
A first visit with my baby son, then two years later, our daughter. Every bag filled to capacity, my mother ooh-ing and aah-ing at their tiny faces the minute we’d trundle into the Arrivals hall. Me, eager to show what a good mother I was with boiled water stored in a separate bottle, formula in a tiny bag, “look mam, she didn’t get any ear ache on the plane”.
Missed Christmases in Dublin, too complicated to manage with tiny children, work commitments, sickness bouts. Cherished memories of Dublin airport’s lavish festive decorations flitting in and out of my head, my mother wistfully wondering if this year they’d have the ‘Welcome Home’ sign up. She said it gave her a feeling of kinship with other mothers whose children had moved “away”.
Summer vacations, busy, bustling plans to travel around the South of Ireland. Aer Rianta’s trolleys with squeaky wheels barely containing the mega suitcases. My mother proudly telling how she’d filled the fridge with all that ‘healthy stuff’ I liked from Superquinn as we’d splash our way across the road to the parking garage, my sister trying to work out where she’d left the car.
Years later, sadder arrivals with a smaller welcome home party waiting at the rails to pick us up. My father no longer alive, my mother moving towards confusion. Heartache. Wanting to stay but knowing it wasn’t possible.
Making The Most Of It…
Duty free gifts, whether coming or going. Aer Lingus stewardesses, a chat and a smile. That first ‘touchdown’ moment or glimpse of Irish soil. Tea-bags, cheddar cheese and sausages, tucked carefully above my head. The passport checker, waving you carelessly by with a little joke. Home.
New set of cards to play with now, my children old enough to do the trip alone. My nieces/nephews already landing here every so often. The cycle of life. Dublin airport and the Aer Lingus logo will always touch a string in my heart. I wonder do they have any clue, the powers-that-be of these iconic institutions? It won’t be just me. The ‘diaspora’ they call us. A fancy name for Irish who moved abroad many moons ago, and prospered, shared their talents even but never let go of what we left behind.
Sure why would we?