I don’t travel often.  It’s one of my future dreams to go on long trips where I can see the world and learn about other places and cultures, first hand.  I had just a taste of it when I was a teenager and my dad took me half way around the world where we spent a month traversing the continent and country of Australia.  Since that time, I have always thought that someday I’d do a lot more of that of that sort of thing.  But, for a common guy like me, a family man, the limited time and means requires that some dreams have to wait in line behind more pressing responsibilities.  So since that May in 1977, my traveling away from home has mostly been on business.

            Like I said, travel doesn’t happen often for me.  Corporate wants to keep me in the processing plant as much as possible, minding the day to day details of our business.  But every year or two, I am sent on a pilgrimage back to corporate headquarters, along with all the other processing managers, for recalibration in our company’s way of doing business.  This isn’t a blog about those meetings I just returned from.  It’s about my thoughts and impressions while traveling to and from my corporate meetings.

Since I love “people watching”, airports are cool places to hang out.  As I sat in the terminal, at my gate, waiting for the call to board, my people watching skills quickly sharpened. 

The amalgamation of language and looks, customs and culture, features and facial expressions, complexion and countenance, hats and hairdos, habits and habitats, soon began to describe to my eyes how diverse the population in airports really are.  As I sat, with book in lap, pretending to read, those around me portrayed little pieces of their lives for me.

A cute couple sat across, facing me.  It appeared many years of living together had given them a similar manner and dress.  Even their physic was now blended to the point that they looked almost like brother and sister rather than husband and wife.  They were slumped onto each others shoulders as they peacefully slept. 

I loved watching the children, of all ages, who were traveling with their parents. Whether they were four years old or fourteen, they seemed to reveal more of their family life then their parents would want. 

A lady quickly stepped into our row of chairs and scanned the floor along the adjoining wall.  She turned back to her husband and said, “There’s one here.”  I knew they wanted the rare power outlet next to my seat.  I offered to give up the seat to them.  It was a chance to change positions for more people watching anyway.  Soon three children were huddled on the floor in front of my old chair watching a movie on a portable DVD player.

An Asian couple was my new subject.  Each time the PA system sounded, they both looked skyward like God had just spoken from the heavens.  Between themselves, their language was something oriental.  I wondered if they understood the English which bombarded them.  I wondered the purpose of their travel.  Now days, most traveled on vacation or business.  They didn’t seem to fit either category.

As I sat there pondering the many mini human dramas before me, I had a glimpse of yesteryear.  In my mind’s eye, I could see my widowed 2 great’s grandma, Inger, traveling with her small family into everything unfamiliar.  In June of 1876 they sailed from Kragero, Norway for Denmark.  They then crossed the North Sea to Hull, England and crossed England by train, and then boarded the Steamer, “Idaho” for crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  For most of this trip, language was a barrier.  No one in the family spoke English.  This made things even more terrifying for the small Norwegian family who were huddled in a cattle car, on display like a freak show slowly crossing England.  My great grandpa, Christian, was just a boy.  He told of how they were gawked at them and jeered.  Some of the Englishmen spit on them and poked and prodded them.  Since they couldn’t understand their English yet, they didn’t understand the meaning of the unruly catcalls which were thrown down at them.  From this experience, Christian hated the English for the rest of his life.            

            Over the PA, boarding my flight was announced.  I watched this Asian couple looking around at the sudden shuffle of people.  As I passed by them, I hoped their American experience didn’t feel like my Norwegian family’s experience in England.  

While boarding the plane, I passed through 1st class which had already boarded.  In the corner of my eye, I caught glimpse of an important looking business man leaning over his laptop computer.  As I glanced back, I noticed instead of business, he was really playing the same computer game I had seen my teenaged son playing at home.  I moved back to coach, found my seat, stowed my bag in the overhead, and slid into my seat. 

Then my mind caught a glimpse of Inger and her little family on her voyage.  Several levels below main deck, as a tall woman, likely she couldn’t even stand up straight on the steerage deck.  I realized that by comparison, I was traveling 1st class.  Inger was very sea sick for her voyage. 

Soon after we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendants moved through the cabin passing out snacks and offering drinks.  I thought of the sea biscuits which Inger received as part of her rations.  These were mostly saved for their rail travel across the American continent to the West.  They made this crossing during the 100 year celebration of American independence.  I wonder what they saw on July 4th, 1876?

As we landed in Atlanta, Georgia, a little over three hours after leaving Salt Lake City, Utah, our pilot joked that we were early but that we had to pay full fare anyway. 

My next mental glimpse was of Inger, with her little family, standing at the side of the new railroad line.  Some one was supposed to meet her there to bring her the final 20 miles to town.  But this was July 24th.  A territory holiday celebrating the first arrival of the religious pioneers twenty-nine years earlier had distracted her wagon taxi.  She sat on the side of that rail line that day and cried.

As I sat in my taxi, traveling to my fancy hotel room, anticipating the extravagance lavished on us over worked managers for a few days every year or two, I was somber… thinking of Inger, and what she went though so life could be so good for her children… for me. 

I don’t mind putting off seeing the world a few more years while my Beautiful Wife and I strive to give our children the best start in life possible.  I wonder… in a generation or two will one of them will look back at us, thinking that we had made a sacrifice for their benefit.  Did Inger think that what she did was some noble sacrifice?  I’ll bet she felt just like me.  We are not doing anything special.  We’re just doing what we think is best for our family.  But, I love Inger for what she did for me.


15 thoughts on “Glimpses”

  1. Beautifully written.  I have the same warm feelings about my Indian family.  My life and day to day living is so much easier than theirs was. 

  2. Thanks, Ron, for putting such a human face and story to names I read on my pedigree chart. Your day will come, as far as travelling goes.  In fact in less than a week from now one more of your little birdies will have flown the coop.  Cheers.

  3. I do like this entry overall, a piece of your writing you obviously intended to yield a unified, single Wham for your readers of your blog, but my favorite passages are your voyeuristic but innocent portraits and commentaries of folks near you at the airport.

  4. Last time I was hanging out in a concourse I happened to see an old friend across the way.  Almost started a stampede when I called out to him:  "HI JACK . . . OVER HERE!!!!";-)

  5. Thoroughly enjoyable.  I people watch as well at airports.  I  usually make a friend.  There are some I still hear from..back and forth that I met one as an example that I met in 1999..and I still hear from her.  There are others.  

  6. As usual, a beauifully well thought out post.  I’m a people watcher myself.  My husband is as well.  We play game btween us and he tells me the history of the family.  I wonder how often he is right.  He is uncanny sometimes.  I know there is a wedding in your future this week as you marry off a son.  How proud you must be.  And your family continues to grow…

  7. Thank you for visiting…I appreciated that.  It is amazing how one little spark between a seatmate or someone you may perhaps be seated near in the airport can sizzle into a friendship.  Once, it was a pilot of another airline who had to take Delta and was seated next to me.  Once, a gemologist.  I am interested in the same that was a natural point of conversation.  I just like people by and large. It could be that they sense that.  🙂

  8. You write so well.  What a wonderful combination of the story of your trip and sharing your GG Grandma Inger’s sturdy background.  She has left a legacy of love and endurance for you to remember and think about and I am sure your grandchildren will stare at the many photos that you have and the stories that you have written and remember too.  We just do the day to day stuff…  as I am sure your Inger did, but it is the day to day stuff that makes the memories and oral and written stories that we share..  My grand father Soren only wrote me one letter .. they lived far away in Oregon and then California when I was a young child and I needed a story from a pioneer.  He wrote, "they are now talking about going to the moon.  I immigrated once, I think I will pass on that next trip."  He was an orphan.  I no longer have that letter, however, no one can take the words he wrote away from my memories.  Enuf said… Thanks again for a wonderful story… lottiemae

  9. wow…Inger was an incredible person…i really enjoyed reading this…i do hope that your son’d wedding was a great time…
    :o) smiles are free and contagious…so pass one right now to the people you love and those you don’t…soon everyone will be smiling… :o)

  10. People watching is so interesting! I really enjoy it! It’s always such a thrill to think about those who came before us – what they have seen and experienced. It boggles the mind to think how far we have come!
    Great blog – I’ll be back!

  11. I love to people watch too, but your observations and the way you write about them is too wornderfull for words. I am not as articulate, wish I was, I have pictures of my thoughts and feelings in my head that I can’t seem to transfer to paper. You have a great gift with words and the english language. I love reading your blog. Another wedding but not the last! Vallerie is worried that she will split her dress so only dance slow dances with her at the reception!!!   LOL LOL LOL

  12. Hi Ron,
         Since I’m going to be flying home today this blog really hit home.  I’ll certainly be looking at the people there with more interest as I try to get "glimpses" into their lives.  I’m also very interested to read about Inger and I do think about our ancestors and how much tougher they had it than we do.  If I lived in Alaska back then, I would probably never see my extended family again. Thanks for the great blog and good luck with the wedding.  Wish I could be there!

  13. Hi Ron,
    Yes, indeed we are a spoiled generation! Both sets of my grandparents were pioneers and worked so hard to make a living on the farm whether or not they were suited to it. I love people watching too and I used to love to eavesdrop too but alas, my hearing isn’t what it once was,lol.
    If you have a drop of German blood in you (or even if you don’t) you will like the cabbage buns!

  14. i love reading your post, you can sure tell a story, You really need to get that book written!!
    Have a great day

  15. hi,
    i was space hopping and landed on your page…i do like it here, i have a passion for writing, story telling, yarns, all things Words really…
    i couldnt help laughing at warrens comment, I have a friend called Jack, and its a visualy funny (?)  thought, HI-JACK and airports.. not a great mix  lol
    but you really did carry the gentle reader with you on that journey of yours, both forwards AND backwards in time…
    that was clever and stunning.. i enjoyed reading it …
    mags x

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