There is something about transportation hubs that is universal. They are infused with emotion. Teary goodbyes and happy reunions. Tension at the baggage check-in and the security checkpoint. Angry travelers upset over missed connections, lost luggage, delayed flights. Happy revelers leaving snowbound cities for tropical shores. Drinks with strangers in the club car of a train or an airport bar.
I have a long-standing history with one hub in particular. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport. For many reasons, I travel Southwest ninety five percent of the time. They have a fantastic rewards program. They seem to fly most anywhere I need to go. They don’t charge for the first two bags you check. Their cancellation policy is one of the easiest.
We became rewards members when my youngest daughter started college in Denver. First, I applied for the Southwest credit card which offered me two free round trip flights for signing up. Because the offer had no blackout dates I then was able to purchase her flights home to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving and Christmas for a ten dollar service fee.
We packed all her college things in six suitcases, two apiece. After leaving her at the campus in Denver, my husband and I continued on to the Vail Food, Wine & Beer Festival over Labor Day weekend where we lived out of our carry-on bag. I packed light and it was a bit chillier than I had anticipated so I bought a leopard print sleeveless fleece at a sidewalk sale in the center of Vail Village for ten dollars and now find myself wearing it quite frequently here at the inn where until today we were waiting for summer, or even spring, to arrive. My Florida wardrobe is not working in Connecticut.
That was the trip that began our life in an empty nest and we passed through BWI coming and going.
A few years earlier, my sister and I flew to BWI for a girls weekend at our cousin’s house in Chevy Chase. She left from Providence, I left from Manchester. Waiting at Orbryki’s Crab House for our flights home, my brother-in-law called and gave us the news our Uncle Donald had passed away. Donald was my godfather and the first gay man I ever knew but for years he was married. He grew up in a time and place where it wasn’t easy to admit you were gay.
He ran his own upholstery business and did some interior decorating for nightclubs in Providence. His houses were always decorated in a very ornate, Victorian style.
While waiting for our flights, Maureen and I ordered wine and reminisced. I remembered the summer I was thirteen Donald gave me a tip on how to get an Indian tan. Add iodine to baby oil. (This was before we worried about skin cancer.) He also told me watermelon aids in digestion. That same day a young girl and her husband stopped by the beach house he owned in Little Compton, Rhode Island. The girl was a third or fourth cousin of Donald and my mother’s. She wore a long Indian print skirt and a beaded headband and she carried her baby in a papoose. The baby’s name was Chelsea Morning, just like the Joni Mitchell song. Years later, when my husband and I were debating baby names I thought about that day. My husband liked Chelsea but was not hot on Morning so we named our oldest daughter Chelsea Marie.
A year after we moved to Florida, my husband’s oldest brother passed away and I found myself dealing with another loss while traveling through BWI on our way back to New England for the memorial service. For some reason I can’t remember, Chelsea was flying to New Hampshire. She was living in Steamboat Springs at the time and we hadn’t seen her in almost a year. She wanted to come to the funeral so we planned to meet at the Manchester airport. Making our connection in Baltimore we crossed the terminal to our departure gate and there she was at the gate across from us arriving from Denver and connecting with the very same flight to Manchester. Sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways. A flight leaves from Fort Lauderdale and connects with a flight from Denver at BWI and one of those classic airport scenes occurs, all hugs and kisses and happy reunions.
Then there was the time I helped my younger daughter transfer from the Denver campus of JWU to Providence. We too met in Baltimore. She was arriving in a terminal on the second floor so I rode the escalator up a flight and saw her striding towards me wearing black jeans with fringe, looking very Colorado and grownup. I waved wildly and hopped off the last two steps to give her a big hug.
The first time I sold a book in an airport was on my flight back to Fort Lauderdale after leaving Providence. Connecting yet again through BWI, my next gate was directly across from my arrival gate with Obrycki’s Bar blocking the way. How convenient, I thought. I had spent a very busy two days moving and unpacking by daughter’s things into her dorm room and was ready for a glass of wine, or two. After all, I had a two hour layover.
A young woman in her early twenties sat down next to me and we struck up a conversation. She had lived in Baltimore all her life, even gone to college in the city, but somehow she met a boy from Buffalo and was on her way to visit him. He wanted her to check out the city and possibly come live with him but she didn’t know if she was ready for that, or the Buffalo winters. One thing led to another and here I was telling her about my novel, The Reverse Commute, and the girl in the story who was living with her boyfriend but wasn’t ready for commitment. When we heard her flight to Buffalo being called to board, I gave her my card and wished her luck. The next day when I happened to check my Amazon account I had a sale. I like to think she bought the book.
I sold another book in BWI back at Obrycki’s Crab House where my sister and I waked my uncle. It was a young man this time who was visiting his girlfriend. He had just been to Asheville, N.C. and so had I. We discussed brewpubs and hiking while my husband chatted with a couple from London. I don’t know why he mentioned his girlfriend loved to read but I pounced on that tidbit of information and gave him my card. I hope he bought the book, too. By that time I had published two books so maybe he bought them both.
I have photobombed my book in airports, including of course, BWI. All the terminals have a Hudson News where they sell bestsellers, magazines, trail mix, and gum. In BWI there was a large display of Dan Brown’s latest book. Dan lives in Rye, New Hampshire not far from where I lived. My husband knows several plumbers, roofers, and electricians who have worked at the very large house he built not far from the ocean with the money he has made from his books. I had my book in my bag so I placed it next to his and photobombed the picture across the World Wide Web on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, et al. I don’t think I sold any books that day.
For you see, it’s very hard to sell books if you are not Dan Brown. Right about now, if you are a frequent blog follower, you might be asking yourself why is she writing about BWI? Why isn’t she telling us her stories from the Inn, because there must be some very funny, interesting stories from this new life she is living as an innkeeper. And you are right, there are lots of stories from my first weeks here at the inn.
But my days are busy and blogging isn’t at the top of my list of things to do. Blogging brings in lots of followers and readers, but blog readers don’t always translate directly to sales, although blogs take time and work, just like writing books. So it is not that I am not writing. I am definitely still writing, in a journal of days with stories of the Inn. I can see a book evolving. A story developing. A story of a marriage, of mid-life career change, and the interesting people who pass through our door. But I see it as a book not a blog.
So I’m trying to keep in touch with my readers, but I’m keeping the Inn stories to myself, for in the end the books matter more than the blogs. To me, at least. And let’s be honest here, I am growing a bit weary of sharing my stories for free.
So here I sit tonight, consumed with my new life as it is very fulfilling, and I’m trying to think of something to write. Something that isn’t part of the unfolding story in my journal. I’m alone in the very large kitchen. The oven is on for I am making twice baked potatoes and brining giant pork chops that I am going to fill with apple stuffing. My husband has left for the airport in Hartford to pick up our younger daughter who is flying out of Denver to spend the summer with us. She was supposed to arrive on Thursday but the Denver airport was a mess and she missed her direct flight. Southwest rescheduled her to a flight this afternoon connecting through BWI.
Well, there it is. The story. Since we sold our house in New Hampshire, my family has been a band of gypsies. My daughter has never spent a college summer at home, until now, this summer in Connecticut, our new home, and we are very much looking forward to it. We spent Thanksgiving in Hilton Head, the girls visited Florida, we vacationed in Colorado and Wyoming where our daughter spent a summer in Yellowstone. We meet up in Rhode Island and Boston, and we also cross paths at BWI. Tonight, after passing through BWI, our youngest daughter is coming home to the Inn where we are creating new stories.