I sat in the handicapped seats, suitcase between my knees, trying to remain out of everyone's way and keep a continuous scan going in case someone with a legitimate need for the handicapped seats showed up. The metro was filled with metro sounds--on a June Saturday that's usually kids and their parents, the sounds of fanny packs planning outings to the Smithsonian. The first stop after I got on was National Airport, and my neighbors glanced first expectantly and then in confusion at my suitcase as I remain seated. I stayed there, headphones in, picking up the ambient noise in between songs on my playlist. I was hunched over, hand cautiously on the suitcase, arm tattooed, nose ring in. No wedding ring on. It occurred to me in that moment that people might make certain assumptions about me: probably that I was younger than I am (thanks, Muse Salon), that I was aimless. I wanted to hold a sign announcing that I am a mother, a diplomat, that this is my one chance to have headphones in, and that on another Saturday two years ago I would have brought my own roiling cacophony onto the train, also headed to the Smithsonian while wondering why my day off felt like so much work. No fanny pack, though. No tattoos yet.
I paid inordinate attention to the landscape in front and then below us when the plane took off from Denver. The front range stretched before me, snow marking the famous fourteeners. The dips and marks of the ground stayed within view for several thousands of feet. God's own country, no doubt. I felt in awe and thankful that--for now, anyway--I can call this place home.
Coming in over the Potomac pulled a different string. Washington always was and always will be my true north. I saw the neat rows of headstones in Arlington and the glittering water and placed a tick mark in the D.C.'s pro column. I stepped into an immediate soup of humidity--not bad by local standards but brutal after a few months in Colorado. One tick in the con.
Friends, acquaintances, classmates, alums wanted to know where my brood was, and I answer that they were in Denver. I'd loved to have shown them off, but I was relieved to have my headphones in, to process the whats and the what nexts on my own. We video-chatted in the middle of a reunion event, Girl blowing raspberries and Boy inserting "poop" between words. I bought a new Georgetown shirt. I lamented the removal of the my favorite tree, the one that I would climb instead of attending Western Civ. I wondered if I would ever step foot in FSI again, if I would ever write another EER, if I would ever keep up with the amazingly talented people I know and love from college. I wondered if I wanted to keep up.
And then No Diggity came on, and I danced. A lot. Class of 2003: Word.