Now Arriving

Last night we made our way to the airport to pick up Suegra. Thanks to taking the wrong toll road, we were running a little late. We finally got turned around in the right direction and the swooping roof of Dulles came into view. Leaving the car in the parking lot, we ran through the freezing cold, into the airport and down the corridor to International Arrivals. As it turned out, Suegra was still in customs, and would be for another hour and a half.

Carlos sighed and resigned himself to wait, but I wasn’t bothered by the delay. I think I could spend all day people watching – and international arrivals is even more magical than any other place to people watch. I like to invent stories about the people in my mind – stories about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Sometimes, if you watch and listen, you can find out what their real story is – at least some of it.

I never got to see who this man was waiting to greet. At first I thought it must be a novia. Qué romantico! He had a bouquet of pink roses and no less than three balloons, one shaped like a heart… but then I remembered, él es un hombre Latino, so those sweet gifts may be for his madre. ¿Quién sabe?

Everyone watched the two big doors to see who would come out next. One little boy ran out the door from customs and yelled “Papi!!!” – A man swept him up in his arms and carried him away with the biggest smile on his face. A hundred hearts melted right there.

Minutes later, a man came out the door from customs. A little boy ran to him and patted the suitcase asking, “¿Qué me trajiste?” This time we all laughed.

A frail but proud old woman was wheeled out of customs in a wheel chair. A group of teenagers exploded in shouts of “Abu!” and ran to greet her. One of the boys hugged her and shouted to his siblings who still hadn’t caught up, “I touched her first!” which made me wonder if they simply had a little competition going between them… A man next to me said, “Qué amor tienen por su abuela, va?”

A woman stood on my other side and she seemed more nervous than anyone else. I found out why when two little kids, a boy and a girl, came through the customs doors escorted by a flight attendant. The woman ran to her children and hugged them, then held them away from her as if to see if they were really real. She handed the boy the balloon she held in her hands. “¿Qué dice?” she said. The boy pulled the string downwards so he could read the balloon… “Welcome” he said in accented English. The mother nodded, “Bien.” As she zipped them into coats I heard her explain that in a few years, their father would join them and they’d be together as a family again.

Finally Suegra came through the doors. It was everyone else’s turn to watch us, to try to figure out our story, maybe listen in and see if they could capture a word or two to understand where we’d been and where we’re going.


  1. Ay Treysi me hiciste llorar! Wow! So brief and yet you captured the emotional subtleties (or not so subtle!) of those waiting moments.
    I too love people watching, pretty much any setting will do, but I agree that airports are right up there on my list.
    Thank you for the beautiful read on this Sunday evening amiga!

    P.S. Hope your “story” was a happy one to strangers looking! ;D

  2. loved this story, too…some tears welled up a little with the mom waiting for her two kids.
    Having just been through this, I have a little story of my own. When we were leaving Bolivia, after three weeks… 11 of his family members, from babies to grandmas, woke up at 4:30 (AM!!) to drive us to the airport. We stood around for about an hour talking about little things, then went through rounds of hugs and kisses, waved at each other past police, and blew many more kisses before we were out of sight. When we landed at Reagan around 9pm, it was quiet. I called my uncle, who lives close by to see where he was to pick us up. His response, “Could you just take a taxi? Everyone here is asleep.”

  3. I have the Slim Shady song in my head now. “Guess who’s back? Back again…” LOL!

    Airports give me the anxiety, but I also get caught up in the people watching! Great post!

  4. That was beautiful!

    Airports really can be either mindnumbing or inspiring depending on your perspective, and it sounds like your perspecive is the latter…. that sure makes waiting much more delicious.

  5. You made me cry, Tracy! I felt like I was there right next to you. People watching is also one of my favorite things, until my husband snaps me out of it with his reproches de que me deje de estar de vida ajena!

    Anyhow, I know exactly what you’re talking about because I experienced it many times when I lived in Miami and people at the international arrivals came from every single place imaginable, all with a different story.

    I’ll be going back home to Peru in a few weeks, and I can’t wait for the glass doors of customs to open up, so I can see my whole family standing out there screaming our names, waiting to give us a gigantic hug and a few sloppy kisses! Even if it’ll be after midnight when we finally get out! You just reminded me what an awesome feeling that is!!!

  6. You brought tears to my eyes this morning! I also love airport reunions and people-watching. While your Suegra just arrived, my Suegros just left. A lot of tears were shed in the good-bye too.

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