Updated: Jan 18, 2022
I never liked flying. The one time I got a window seat, I ended up giving it to an elderly woman who insisted she could see her dead husband in the clouds and enjoyed long conversations with him. As far as I could tell, she slept the whole time. Isle seats are best anyway because these trips tend to make me sick. The tiniest bit of turbulence ends with my face in the toilet at thirty thousand feet. Being a member of the mile-high club isn't something I'll ever mark off my bucket list.
I've always read that a person can never go home. The saying is true even if you never leave in the first place. People die, then everyone fights over stuff until nobody wants any of it. Favorite childhood memories get replaced with mini-malls and automatic car washes. Going back or attempting to hang on is a lost cause. Once we break free of the cocoon, it's time to spread our wings and fly. Or if you're like me, you hop from branch to branch forever in search of a better launchpad. Maybe I'll find it.
Nothing was keeping me in Minnesota anyway. The only girl I ever loved perused me for years, but I was too dumb to see it until she married my best friend. Today, I'm flying home to watch them bury Patricia Van Pelt after losing a cancer fight. I observed the rest of my childhood pals either become alcoholics or settle well below their potential in our dying little community. Life insurance salesman sort of chose me. It's not the most glamorous career, but it was the catalyst for my escape. Well, my physical freedom anyway. Somehow my mind is still stuck in some never-ending groove.
My happiest moments came and went by the time I was thirteen. Life was a struggle, and things rarely worked out, but I had my family and my buddies. I felt complete in my pre-teen years, even though my childhood was far from perfect. My favorite person wasn't even a person at all. It was my stupid dog, which I still believe today thought he was human. Wherever I went, my four-legged companion tagged along.
I'd be lying to myself if I said I wasn't nervous about going back after thirty years. None of my old friends will want to see me, at least the ones still breathing. I've got a good mind to turn right around and buy another ticket back to Clarkstown as soon as the plane lands. They've all been better off without me anyway, even my kid sister. That's what I'll do; I'll text Frank to let him know I changed my mind as soon as we land.
After exiting the plane, the first thing I saw in the airport was a giant Christmas tree. It instantly brought back memories of the real tree I picked out one year when I was a kid. Man, that little evergreen was ugly, and that's being modest. Everyone made fun of me, but they did what friends do and helped me decorate it anyway. It's funny, but that's my most memorable holiday. Not one gift from the past sticks out in my mind; only the memories of friendships and hardships linger.
Alright, time for the text, "Hey Franklin, I've got some awful news. Hopefully, you haven't made it to the airport already," before I could finish, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Charles! Charlie Brown!" screamed out my old companion, Franklin. He met me with a giant hug as I turned around. Looking over his shoulder during our embrace, I discovered a welcome surprise.
I instantly recognized my sister Sally; we still FaceTime every other week. She was standing alongside Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, and the rest of the gang. They would have all been easily recognizable even without Facebook. Sadly Peppermint Patty is the only one missing. We'll be saying our goodbyes to Patricia later in the week. By the looks of things, the loss is lying heavily on Linus. Even after thirty years, they all showed up to see me. Maybe going home isn't impossible after all. "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown," my childhood friends said in unison while tackling me with affection.