‘ve always requested the window seat. Though I inevitably have to ask my two row-sharers mid-flight to rise and awkwardly shuffle to the side so I can use the potty. Though my legs be cramped and my bladder be full. I opt for the widow seat.
Flying has become a signpost in my life the last four years: transition, change, loss, excitement, opportunity, joy. And it’s created a rhythm. Between semesters, at holidays, at summer’s end. 66 bus to Blue Line all the way to O’Hare–relieved, exhausted, joyful, post-exams bliss.
And then back. Coming over the turn of 59, after what seems and endless series of winding and dropping Houston highways, hotels and shuttle busses beginning to spot the feeder. It means we’re close to the airport and nearer to the goodbyes. Collecting the bags and squeezing sisters tighter than I knew I could. And then off. By myself usually.
So I take the window seat. I nestle in, and though tears may follow (which have, thankfully, tapered through the years), I have landscape to watch and, approaching my destination, my temporary home, I see it in all its splendor. Glittering there over the lake. Inviting me, charming me.
I’ll never forget the view from the window seat in Ireland, lifting my shade and seeing that we were there. The green was unbelievable. Radiating up at us, a smiling and silly stereotype. And as we got closer, lovely fences, winding rivers, rolling hills spotted with cottages and sheep.
Approaching Chicago, it’s always the same strange routine. Heading due East, we approach the city, pass over our little neighborhood and Wicker Park, over West Town and then the Loop. And you think it couldn’t get any more beautiful. But the plane doesn’t descend.
It propels on, going straight over Lake Michigan. The water looks like old leather from up there, shriveled and deep blue, the lowering sun casting a cylinder of glowing light over it. And then the plane turns, gently and dramatically, revealing the other side. You pass back over the city and enjoy her splendor one more time.
This ritual has welcomed me to Chicago dozens of times–always to start a new semester. But after spending last weekend with my family in Houston, I boarded United 1577 last night and went through the whole routine.
And I realized as I watched the skyline sink into the background that this is the first time I’m returning to no new beginning. And that it’s a funny coincidence I would be on that very same flight I normally take to start the fall semester, with classes commencing that next day. But I’m not taking on another semester. I’m not moving in with a new roommate. I’m not starting a new job.
And though this at first hits me with emptiness, something about that glitzy skyline glimmered with hope and potential. There’s not something new right now, but there’s the dream of something new. There’s the dream of when we get to live in the same city as our families–when I can invite Audrey over for dinner or go to Alex’s performances. When I can meet Mom or Dana for lunch or coffee. There’s the dream of when we’ll start a family, when our love and God’s grace will blossom into a new life. There’s the dream of when I’ll go back to the classroom. There’s the dream, sweet and full of potential. But not yet.
Right now, here’s what God has given us: the dream of today. The dream that has flesh and bones, that makes noise and talks and smells. The dream of our reality–our townhouse, and my commute, and Collin’s new coffee shop, and our cat. The dream of our community and neighborhood and fragile young marriage to nurture. That’s my new beginning, everyday something to witness and take in from the window seat.