The Departure


“Time to get up, Darryl!” I called in a loud voice, shaking his shoulder with my right hand. He was curled up in a little ball with his pillow and his covers. Just then the phone rang, but Harshan apparently answered it.

“Ah, mom, can’t I sleep a little more?” he pleaded, half-asleep.

“No, honey,” I replied, trying to work some enthusiasm into my voice, “You want to catch the airplane for Halakan, don’t you?”

“I want to sleep!” he mumbled. Then he suddenly shot up in bed, fully awake. “Grandma and Grandpa Nagala! Gosh, I forgot! Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?”

“If you want to fly with us, you’d better skedaddle into the bathroom!” I chuckled to myself. If only I could get going in the morning with a rocket start! Darryl padded off to the bathroom, and I laid out his clothes.

Harshan walked into the room. “Are you sure you have everything packed?”

“Yes,” I said over my shoulder. “I just have a few of your things to put in the suitcase, and then we’ll be ready to catch the bus to the airport.” I felt so efficient!

“Forget the bus!” Harshan said mysteriously. “John just called. He wants to zip you two to the airport in his car, so you’ve got an extra thirty-two minutes!” He pulled my chin towards him and kissed me lightly on the lips.

I sank so deeply into his dreamy blue eyes that I nearly lost consciousness. Something jabbed me back to reality. “What do you mean, ‘you two’?” I asked.

“Actually, I’ll be riding along with you to the airport, but I can’t fly with you today,” Harshan explained apologetically. “Pressure of business. Something came up and I have to work today. I’ve already changed the airplane tickets. You and Darryl will fly out today, and I’ll take a later flight. I will join you at my parents’ house in Fomin tomorrow!”

“Oh, well,” I sighed dejectedly, “I guess that isn’t so bad. It is a direct flight with no stops, so not much can go wrong.” Harshan nodded solemnly. I mused over the situation for a moment. Even if none of the stewards on the plane speak Thorgelfaynese, the Nagalas will meet us at the airport. Darryl and I can get along with Harshan’s parents very well, even without being able to speak a word of Halakanian.

“Melissa Lahtissimon, I love you so!” Harshan whispered, and I cried. That was the last thing he said before he boarded that flight to Fomin so long ago, the time I thought the airplane had exploded!

“Oh, silly me!” I said, wiping my eyes. “Here I go, getting sentimental again!”

Harshan kissed me briefly again and left the room after promising to see us off at the airport.

Darryl burst out of the bathroom in a whirlwind of enthusiasm. “When are we leaving?” he asked as he tore off his pajamas and threw on his clothes.

“We have a little extra time,” I said softly, “John Anderson is driving us to the airport, so you don’t have to go so fast!”

“I’m going to hurry anyway,” Darryl resolved. Then he noticed that I didn’t look very excited about the trip anymore.

“Daddy can’t fly with us today,” I explained dejectedly. Darryl just stood there for a moment, then went racing out the bedroom door. I walked into the living room just as Harshan finished explaining things to Darryl.

“It isn’t so bad, Mom,” Darryl said, “It’s only one day!”

Even with an extra half-hour to get ready, I was still unprepared for John’s knock at the door. Before I knew it, we were driving to the airport in John Anderson’s sleek, black and gray ‘98 Snitt.

“This really is a very nice car,” I informed John as I admired the appointments.

“Thanks,” he said as he merged onto the Interprovincial Highway, “I’d really like to trade it in now, but I’m afraid to.”

“You’re afraid to trade it in on a new car?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes,” he said, “This car was given to me by the Fjarnian government when I first arrived on Homeland. I wouldn’t want to cause an international diplomatic crisis!”

“I don’t think that’s possible on Homeland,” I ventured. I paused and added playfully, “Now if this were Earth, imagine what would happen!”

We laughed and discussed the differences between Homeland and Earth; a discussion that was particularly topical, since visiting my mother on Earth was the main objective of the trip. John and I concluded that Homeland is far nicer than Earth, but Darryl, thinking he was defending his grandmother, tried to advance evidence in favor of Earth. Harshan, of course, remained diplomatically neutral.

What more is there to tell you about? The airport is practically deserted at that hour of the morning, so we had no crowds to contend with. We parked the car, checked the baggage and waited in the departure lounge for Kharg-And-Beyond Airlines’ daily flight to Fomin, Halakan.

Darryl read magazines while John and Harshan chatted about the new Duke of Thorgelfayne. I dozed off a couple times. Suddenly, Darryl threw down his magazine.

“Hey!” he said, “what about my Hugmup? We forgot to bring my Hugmup!”

“Calm down, space cadet, and pick up that magazine!” Harshan commanded firmly. Darryl hopped down from his seat and scrambled to comply. “He’ll be just fine,” Harshan reassured him, “Hugmups are afraid of airplanes, and they are not allowed to fly in spacecraft.”

“Why not?” came Darryl’s pouty rejoinder.

Harshan, not willing to explain to Darryl about migration patterns and breeding seasons, decided to tell him that Hugmups need to be able to go outdoors; if they can’t go out, they panic and die of sadness.

“You wouldn’t want to do that to your Hugmup, would you?” Harshan concluded.

“No, I guess not,” Darryl sighed in resignation. “But it sure would be neat to show him to Grandma Franklin in Chicago!”

We all agreed that it would be fun indeed, but our conversation was interrupted by the boarding call! There was a flurry of hugs and kisses, and Darryl and I began to walk towards the gate.

“Melissa Lahtissimon,” Harshan called, his blue eyes sparkling, “I love you so!” That squeezed the tears right out of me, so I had to run back through the other passengers and hug him once again.

After a while, Darryl and I were walking up the ramp into the plane.

“Now you’ll have to stick close to me all the time, Darryl”

“Aw, Mom, I’m not a little kid anymore!” he protested, “I’m not going to get lost!

“I know that,” I conceded, “but very few people speak Thorgelfaynese outside of Thorgelfayne.”

“We have foreign languages in school,” Darryl reminded me.

“That’s fine for you, but I don’t know any foreign languages,” I countered, wondering skeptically how far he could stretch a single year of instruction in Fjarnian. “I want you to stick close to me so that I won’t get lost!”

“That’s okay, Mom,” Darryl reassured as he squeezed my hand protectively. “I’ll make sure you’re safe!”

I heaved a sigh of relief. At least he’s still young enough for flattery to work.

We entered the aircraft and walked down the narrow aisle to our seats. While we were settling in, we heard several routine announcements in Fjarnian and Thorgelfaynese over the plane’s public address system. After a short time, they told us to fasten our seat belts for departure. I waved out the window towards the terminal, just in case Harshan was watching, and just in case he could see. I studied the green Thorgelfaynese flag and the Ducal Crest on the airport building. A lump formed in my throat as I realized that I would much rather walk back down the ramp and never leave Thorgelfayne again!

Darryl begged to have the window seat. We hurriedly exchanged seats as unobtrusively as we could. Then the aircraft began to move, and I grabbed the arms of my seat as we lifted off.

A line from the Thorgelfaynese national anthem came to mind: “Oh, Thorgelfayne, my native land” —I may have been born under a distant star and in a country far away, but it was at that moment that I realized how much I loved my adopted land. And how much I loved my husband, whom I was painfully, if temporarily, leaving behind. For the first time, I understood what Shakespeare meant when he said that parting is sweet sorrow. The sadness comes from all the things you leave behind; and the sweetness comes as you realize how much you love them, and why.

Hapdorn dwindled into our mountain valley as the airplane climbed into the bright blue sky and nestled amongst the fluffy clouds. We settled in for a smooth and uneventful flight to Harshan’s native land of Halakan, which lay several time zones ahead of us. It was a beautiful day for flying, but I missed the view. All that sweetness and all that sorrow tore my heart to shreds, and I cried until the stewardess came and helped Darryl hug me.