Sometimes I feel like I am, perhaps, one of the few people left on the planet who would like to be welcomed home. Is it just my family, the faked up advertising images of many happy returns and re-runs of ‘Leave it to Beaver’-type TV shows from a half-century ago in which coming home remains a cherished event?
Perhaps one needs to live in societies a little closer to the edge to truly appreciate the very small things in life: like returning home safely.
Growing up during successive eras when your loved ones could have been taken off by the secret police, been injured in civil unrest, or killed in a carjacking on the commute home certainly put a different spin on returnning home safely.
Add to that the cultural customs (both Chinese and African) of greeting people whether they are arriving or leaving, and you have the ideal conditions that turn any movement from the family seat into a special affair.
Of course that doesn’t translate well into many modern societies. Here people are so independent, infinitely mobile, and the environments so dependable and hermetically safe, that everyday arrivals and departures are of no consequence whatsoever.
Like the harsh wake-up call I had one year as a student. Dashing eagerly out the plane, grabbing my luggage to be greeted by… no one. It was a useful lesson in humility, and in how to cage lifts.
When you come and go, to and fro, as much as I do these days. Well… it’s a non-event. But I vicariously enjoy the eager anticipation among fellow travellers who know there are groups of equally eager people waiting for them just outside the customs and baggage hall.
I love the searching eyes that laser in on every exiting passenger, quickly dismissing them as they fail to meet the basic identikit. And how those gazes linger longer on people closer to the person they’re expecting — if you observe for long enough, you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy what the arrivee actually looks like.
As for me? My not-so-long-gone days of being greeted, including by stuffed animals bearing signs with my name, or single helium balloons, are probably gone for good. These days, the pragmatist in me recognizes that most times, the only greeting I’m likely to get is by someone I’m paying to pick me up.
With a few notable exceptions, those treasured sources of eternal heartful welcome: my family, a handful of incredible friends, and my (as yet non-existent) dog. Like those most loyal of companions, there are some who are always happy to see you. No matter how short or long the trip, how inconvenient the arrival, these are the people with a gift of making you feel like the special person you aren’t.