The snowy peaks of the Cascade Mountains filled the 787’s window. My gaze followed their winding path south toward majestic Mt. Rainier. This wasn’t the gray, rainy Northwest I’d been prepped for. At this altitude, the deep blue of the sky was almost too intense. The captain had announced the visibility at over 100 miles. The only cloud I could see was a gauzy halo hiding the peak of Rainier.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” My mom leaned over from the middle seat to see out. “You wouldn’t guess from looking at it that it’s actually an active volcano, would you?”
“No way!” I stared harder at it. “But, it seems so beautiful. And peaceful.”
“I know,” Mom replied. “You can’t always tell what going on inside a calm exterior.”
That’s for sure, I thought as I leaned back in my seat. Anyone looking at me, for example, would only see a normal 12 year old boy. And I had been– until just moments ago, when the mysterious cloud had formed over the volcano. Ancient forces rose from the depths of the earth and had been beamed toward me at the precise moment I was staring in its direction. Now, I could feel untold power coursing through my body. My mind was expanding with superhuman intelligence. I had been worrying about starting school in a couple weeks, but now the problem would be to keep from showing off too much. I could just imagine…
“Noah…Noah!” Mom was gently shaking my shoulder.
“Huh?” I opened my eyes to see both my mom and my older sister, Taylor, looking at me.
“See. He’s daydreaming. Again.” Taylor rolled her eyes and went back to her book.
“Come on, Noah,” Mom said with a smile. “They just announced it’s time to bring your seat up.” As I did, the plane banked left and we were looking down at houses and roads and a lake. And trees. Lots of trees.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Mom sighed. “I’ve really missed it.”
“Is that Seattle?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so. North Seattle anyway. Oh, wait. Look! See the bridge there? Just coming up. It’s a floating bridge! It floats all the way across Lake Washington. And there, all those buildings and the football stadium near the bridge, that’s the University of Washington!”
“Wait for it,” Taylor said, looking over.
“That’s where Dad and I met,” Mom said with a sigh. Then both she and Taylor continued in unison, “It was SO romantic.” They started laughing and shoving each other.
“I can’t wait to see your dad,” Mom said, more seriously. “Six weeks was too long.”
My parents DID meet at the University, except that they usually refer to it as either the U, or the U-Dub. They were both graduate students in the 90s when they met. As for it being romantic, well, whatever. They met at a wedding and Dad always says that disproves the whole romance thing. Then he winks at me and Mom gives him one of her looks.
Anyway, they do miss each other when they’re apart, and with their work that’s pretty often. This time, Dad came to Seattle ahead of us because he had to start his new job as a professor at the University of Washington. He’s some kind of big deal expert on international politics, especially the Middle East. He’s written some articles and a couple of books.
Earlier this summer, Mom left us with Gram and Gramps in Virginia and flew out to help Dad look for a house. She said when they were first married, he had picked out a place for them to live before she joined him and she was never going to let that happen again. So, then she came back for the summer session class she was teaching. Taylor and I were glad for the extra time in Arlington. We had only lived there for three years, but we had friends we didn’t want to leave and weren’t anxious to have to start over. Again. Besides, I was on a baseball team that plays in an evening league that keeps going through the summer, so I was glad I could play in most of the games.
The plane touched down and taxied for a while before reaching the gate. Taylor got our bags down from the overhead and handed them to us when it was our row’s turn to leave. As we came out into the terminal, Mom looked around and said, “I miss the time when whoever came to meet you could be standing right here at the gate, smiling and waving, ready to give you a big hug or kiss as you left the plane.”
Taylor and I just stared at her. “That was before 9/11 of course,” she continued. “Everything changed after that.”
I started to say something, but there was an unusual sadness in her eyes that stopped me. Taylor, also silent, took Mom’s free hand. Then, all three of us fell in step with the stream of passengers, pulling our carry-ons, ready to find Dad and be a family of four again.