The man and woman formed an island of uncomfortable silence in the middle of the airport terminal's noisy crowds. He dejected staring at his shoes, she clutching her bag close to her body with one hand and wiping away tears with the other.
As an impartial observer one might assume his embarrassment was caused by the sobbing woman next to him. And the woman was probably bawling because she was highly emotional.
Hard to tell, since inside and outside don't always match. Such superficial visual interpretations normally lead to erroneous conclusions about others.
How can we confidently claim clarity of vision, if what we are viewing may not be the truth at all?
The problem, in my opinion, resides in the constant struggle between what you see, what you want to see and what actually is combined with what the individual, being observed, is showing, hiding or altogether faking.
But I am digressing... In this case, the man and woman in question were deeply connected to me and as I turned for a final goodbye wave before entering the Departures hall, I knew exactly what both my parents were thinking and feeling, having been exposed to their super strong love and protection (the potentially suffocating experience stunting kind) for all my short young life.
Don't get me wrong, I loved them to death and would always be grateful for all they had provided, but oooooh how my breath was released from within as I picked up my carry on and walked away - alone for the first time. A rush of adrenaline that was a mixture of fear, expectation, excitement and new found independence moved through me. I felt I would burst and couldn't stop smiling.
In June of that year the world would be exposed to the Tiananmen massacre, In July Princess Diana opened a landmark Aids Clinic, in November the Berlin Wall would fall, John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany was published and a young girl was taking her first independent steps out into the world.
As I set out towards the coffee bar, head high and step light I wondered what people saw as I practically skipped by. Maybe some saw a young, seemingly carefree athletic girl with curly brown hair and an easy smile. Other's probably didn't notice me at all.
What people didn't see was the young woman wanting to burst forth and claim her little corner of the world, who wanted to leave her mark, be loved and be remembered. Nor were they privy to the remnants of the child inside, still capable of being touched by doubt, brushed by anxiety and confused by turbulent emotions. How could they, when the external package was all smiles and verve positively oozing self-confidence and happiness.
No matter what others saw or thought they saw, that young girl knew that she was being given her chance and she was going to embrace it all with gusto and energy. This, she was certain, was the beginning of something bigger than herself and she was going to step up and find the courage to do what was needed and tackle whatever life threw her way.
What she didn't realize, until many years later (when she too waved goodbye to her first born struggling with a complex mix of emotions) was that the middle aged woman with the tear stained cheeks, clutching her bag at the airport all those years ago, had been crying for those very same reasons moved by a strong sense of pride and nostalgia, while the man's embarrassment had been due to not being able to stay strong as he waved and said goodbye to his little girl.