A terminal’s twin What better place to read Dr. Arnold Band’s tome, Studies In Modern Jewish Literature, than terminal two at RDU airport? By designating that huge space as my reading room, I knew I would escape the strictly enforced quiet of a library while enjoying the privacy of anonymity. For the four hours I’d planned to spend, I knew my thoughts would have room to wander; even my occasional muttering would be overlooked.
Although my plan worked to perfection, I admit to another reason for being there. At the end of my stay, my partner’s flight would arrive. With fifteen minutes to spare, I finished my book then migrated to the Starbucks lounge.
What surprised me there was not a new variety of scones. Instead, I watched an artist, obviously talented, as he finished a sketch of an Indian, a squaw wearing beads.
“Great picture!” I offered.
“Thanks,” he replied, unbothered by my presence.
He continued his sketch. I commented on his talent. He didn’t mind talking about his work. And I had fifteen minutes to enjoy what he shared.
Tom K. had been an instructor of American Indian students in a western state. Kids loved his classes; they learned about art and learned to believe in themselves. “I began each class by showing them what they could do with a box of colored pencils,” he said, as he returned the one he was using to its box on the bench next to him.
His wife was flying home from a business trip. She loved his work. Galleries used to. “I don’t bother with them any more,” he told me. “I have hundreds of these at home.”
I was impressed. We talked about teaching; he loved the name of my course, Controversial Issues.
“You might want this,” he said, as he handed me a copy of a DVD about him and his work. Some of his students had made the documentary. We shook hands.
“I’ll send you my book,” I said, as I hurried to meet my partner. She had arrived.
She loved my story about using the terminal as a reading room. Although I’m not sure when I’ll do it again, I’m sure I will. I loved the freedom I felt there, the connection I sensed with a larger purpose.
Last night, I had a similar sensation when I joined my daughter and her husband in their succa, a four-sided hut he and I’d had a hand in building from scrap materials. Its roof consisted of branches I’d pruned from my mother’s yard.
I’d been invited to dine with them in the succa. My daughter had asked me to say the prayer over our wine. I felt honored to do that. Then we closed the succa door, latched it with an improvised string, and ate on the unfolded card table that just did fit inside.
Our meal, under the stars, reminded me of camping trips and feasts I’d shared with friends around campfires. When I mentioned that, my son-in-law nodded.
He spoke about his love for succot, the Jewish holiday when people built their succas. “It’s my favorite holiday,” he told us. “I feel so full of joy.”
I saw the glee in his eyes. He told us about how he felt so connected during this holiday to the meaning of life and our heritage.
I agreed. But for the darkness, I could imagine spending hours there. My children would; they planned to sleep that night in the succa. Although I applauded them for being such hearty souls, I was considering how it would be during the day, just sitting there with a book at the card table.
If I were to do that, chances are I would sense that the best parts of me would feel they were about to take flight, much as they did that afternoon I’d spent at RDU.
Although my children’s succa will soon be dismantled, I may consider adopting RDU’s airy building as my permanent succa.
Maybe you and Tom K. will join me there.
B. Koplen 10/2/12
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