Runways and Rain – A Memory Fragment

September 23, 2021

I am fascinated by the randomness of memories.  Those moments when memory fragments come rushing back into one’s consciousness, like a springtime river breakup, crashing through the hillocky cortices of the brain, splashing here and there, lighting up neurons like exploding stars. Others steal softly over the mind like that lone white cloud on a clear sunny day, moving slowly across the blue sky. Either way, fragments have an ability to stop me in my tracks and make my eyes glaze over as that faraway look steals in and I leave the present for another time.

This morning as I watch the rain fall a memory fragment begins to move across my inner brow and I am suddenly taken back to over ten years ago when my family and I flew to Africa.  This little fragment comes back to me often, much clearer than many more important events and I don’t understand why.  When it does come I just sit, eyes distant, lost in thought, remembering…


In this fragment I am standing at the back of a British Airways 767 aircraft.  Moments past we boarded the jet and my wife and two little ones are already seated, the little people having already tucked their little pink back packs under the seats. By now the little ragamuffins are little travel troopers and this flight is just another adventure, a time to get into some new games and books.

The very back of the plane is empty and so I stand alone in the galley, the portside rear door wide open to the outside where the food services truck has just backed away.  It is 9 o’clock in England, the sun is gone and a soft rain is falling.  The tarmac at Gatwick is gleaming and reflecting a million lights from the endless terminals, numerous runways, and myriad taxiways.  The plane sways gently as people load and find their places, voices far away and muffled. In a few minutes we will lift off into the night sky and track south across all of Europe, over the Mediterranean Sea and down into the heart of Africa.

In the moment the door is open and the rain is falling, the stress of many hours of travel, packing, and planning falls away and I realize that our dream of going to Africa is finally coming true.

Perhaps that is why this memory remains so clear and poignant.  A dream is finally realized as everything comes together in one rain-splashed night; the romance and intrigue of travel combined with the start of another new and exciting adventure, all poignant and visceral.

I come back to the present with a start and stand there smiling, thinking to myself, how random. How lovely. If only we could go back and do it all again.

BF – 2017

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