I checked the expected arrival time of the Northwest flight in the morning before I set off: the 'scheduled 12.15' had turned into an 'expected 11.40'. I needed to get my skates on and I mentally crossed off a couple of last minute jobs around the house. I always liked having the house ready and looking nice before they arrived--the child in me trying to impress, 'see how tidy my room is!' But I hated being late for my parents and had only been late once or twice in the 19 years they've been visiting, so I convinced myself that their jet lag would prevent them from seeing that I missed a couple of jobs. Of course the reality is they will not even care because I know they aren't coming for a room inspection but for a good visit and a chance to see how my world is getting on.
I couldn't concentrate. I reflected on the years of these meetings. They had started with me taking the Gatwick Express from Victoria to Gatwick to meet my parents, then tube across London to the East End where I lived the budget life of a student. I felt truly advanced in the world when I could afford to pay for a taxi from Victoria to get them and their suitcases back to Whitechapel. And now I am driving around one of the busiest roads in the world, collecting them, and taking them back to my home in a very pretty part of Essex.
This was the first time I had collected them at Heathrow. Once the arrivals board read 'baggage in hall' my habit has always been to study the people coming through the doors. Do they look like they've come from Minnesota? Silly, because many people have just made a connecting flight through Minneapolis/St Paul so my assessment procedure is flawed from the beginning. I look for Vikings, Twins, U of M clothing. I then listen for the accent. 'You betcha!' And the long vowels. I heard someone say 'oh yeah, it was a really good flight, really comfortable.' It sounded Minnesotan.
I began to see the red and white luggage labels of the Northwest flights coming through so I gave up on the book and wandered over closer to the doors, watching as each of the trollies edged around the corner, owners following, pushing, wearily scanning each of us for their people. Each burst of people through the electric doors made everyone around me strain forward as they studied each face then sink back slightly and wait again. I wondered how many of the people around me were expats from Minnesota like me. I almost turned to the woman next to me and said something, just to start a conversation--the American in me, but then the British influence took over and I closed my mouth and turned back to watching the new arrivals.
I was thinking of my fellow blogging expats and wondered how many times each of you have gone through this! I wondered how many of you would have started the conversation or how many of you rush around for a week before your family arrived getting jobs done like mad (we repainted the hall last weekend), or how many of you have completely different experiences with waiting in arrivals for your family's visit.
Michellouiis an American who has lived in the UK for 19 years. Although she loves Britain, she remains steadfastly American and now has a Mid-Atlantic accent to match her Mid-Atlantic culture. Her Blog is Mid-Atlantic English or How I learned to stop worrying and love the host culture (tips for enjoying your life abroad).
Photo credit: caribb