She sat next to me on a crowded, skinny, two-seater airplane. She was a larger woman and I noticed her at the gate, thinking quietly to myself that she looked unsure. I wasn't feeling a hundred, so when we got to our respective seats I sat down quietly and closed my eyes. I noticed during take off that she had closed her eyes too. As I stated before, the plane was narrow and crowded so the fact that the larger woman sitting next to me, the lady in yellow, had her elbows in my gut became something that I knew I couldn't control.
Yet I didn't mind.
As I restlessly slept on the plane I would open my eyes every now and again and looked at the woman next to me. Her skin was as dark as a bar of chocolate but it was luminous and beautiful. Her two-toned dreadlocks were swept up into a bun on top of her head and the sea shells that were expertly woven in between the locks made her appear much more stylish than that of a woman her age. Her fashionable leopard print scarf let me know that this woman knew exactly who she was and what she wanted to look like. But it was her smell that got me.
She smelled like my childhood.
She was chewing on bubblegum that smelled exactly like the bubblegum of my childhood. And that scent? It was so pleasant. I found myself wanting to put my head on her shoulder because she felt safe. The fact that our arms were smashed together because of the close proximity of the small seats didn't bother me at all. I liked her yet I hardly knew her. She was a woman of faith. I could tell because with her she had a 1997 biography of the Reverend Billy Graham and she opened it and began to read it while we were on the plane. I thought it adorable that before we took off she asked me exactly how to put her cell phone into airplane mode. I showed her where to find it in her settings AP. Obviously it was important to her to conform to the rules.
I must have been coughing a bit, because she asked me if I was OK, and asked me if I had allergies. I told her I had been visiting my son in college. He was sick with an undiagnosed strep throat that was mistaken for allergies. It had proceeded over the weekend into a full blown, swollen throat so painful that he could hardly swallow water. The fact that my emergency trip to North Carolina that Sunday to take him to the hospital was not lost on her. We agreed that I spent the most contagious 24 hours with him and I told her I hoped that I would not get sick also.
We chatted a bit about being a mom and that when your child is sick, it's no matter where you are; you go. I found out she was from Kenya, just visiting relatives in NC and stopping briefly in my home town of Boston before flying to Amsterdam then on to Nairobi. It was her first visit to the United States. She had 3 grown children, each living in different parts of the world, and a new grandchild. I told her jokingly as we landed that she could now add Boston to the places in the US she has been, even for a short time. I helped her with the bags she had stowed above our seats, and I wished her a good trip and safety as she traveled back to Kenya.
Then I said goodbye and walked away from the Lady in Yellow forever.
But I still thought about her. I'm thinking right about now she must be landing in her homeland, hopefully safe and tired. Maybe her children will be waiting to greet her as she arrives, maybe not. But I want her to know that somewhere, someone is thinking of her and hoping she makes it home safely.