Saturday 6 March
An hour ago I finished my last appointment before I leave for the East Coast. And for the thirtieth time this week I explained to someone who did not know the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots and why I was going to Washington DC.
And then, after a trip to the pharmacy for Zantac – I’ve had this funky pain behind my sternum – I came home.
Home is a funny word. I think I’ve spent my whole adult life looking for one. For a home, that is. And I think I found it here in the Bay Area. But when I wake up in my hotel room in Washington on Tuesday morning I’ll be about ninety minutes away from the home I knew when I was a child and haven’t seen since 1984.
It wasn’t a particularly pleasant place and like many teenagers I left as soon as I was able. The alcohol-fueled dysfunction seemed to grow and multiply and filled every crack and crevice until there was no space left for me. I moved across the country and then across an ocean and back again. And when physical distance wasn’t enough I changed my name.
As I grew older I recognized – as many people do – that families are not defined by the blood that pounds its way through the heart. Families are more than that. They’re the people you meet along the way who stick around for longer than a simple ‘hello’. They’re the people who do the extraordinary for you and expect nothing back. They’re the ones who include you when you didn’t expect inclusion and the ones whose stories will break your heart in an instant.
And for Margaret Phelan Taylor I will board the plane that will deliver me uncomfortably close to the place I’ve avoided for so long. And I’ll ignore the nagging curiosity that is tempting me to board a bus to Breinigsville. Satisfying my curiosity is not part of healing.
Besides, this is Margaret’s week. She’s part of my tribe – my family. She included me. It is an honor.
Writing Maggie’s story has been an incredibly journey. When I began, I had no idea it would lead to this moment. As I wrote I asked time and again ‘who is Maggie?’. All along maybe I should have been asking ‘who am I?’.
The answer can wait. It’s time to pack.