27 January 2008

Familiar Faces of Christmas 2007

The reclusive Estonian sun re-appeared Thursday, December 20, dissolving the winter's heavy layer of grey clouds and warming the first two legs of my journey back to the Land of Lincoln. With the sun overhead, the short flight from Tallinn to Helsinki was surprisingly beautiful. While the city looked uncomfortably compact from the sky, the country looked incredibly large and unihabited. It only took me a few steps to get from the arrival gate to the departure gate at Helsinki-Vantaa, which gave me an hour or so to stick my head into The Guardian Weekly before my Finnair flight to London Heathrow. Finland is the home of Santa Claus, and Finnair is his official airline. These are pretty gutsy claims for a country and an airline less than a hundred years old.

We just had to circle once out over southern London before landing at Heathrow on what was a wet, dreay afternoon that didn't come at all close to dulling the grandeur of the 747s and the A340s of Qantas, Varig, Air China, South African, and British Airways standing docilely at the gates. Corridors, escalators, ramps, and moving walkways got me to the security checkpoint for connecting flights. Once I got my coat back on, my shoes back on, my belt back on, my laptop back in its case, and my change and wallet back in my pockets, I checked in again and again answered questions about my luggage for the American Airlines flight to Chicago. I had about 45 minutes to get to Terminal 3, which was just a bus ride away, down the escalator on the left. Well, more corridors, escalators, ramps, and moving walkways in Terminal 3 made my sprint to the gate just as long as the bus ride to the terminal. With 10 minutes to go before the scheduled take-off, I was still in the check-in line, but definitely not the last one in line. I wiped the sweat off my forehead after a woman from American welcomed me with a very warm and sincere Southern accent and allowed me go down the gangway to the plane.

So, say hello to my 93-year-old grandmother in her comfy recliner; to my parents, there in the food court at the mall; my sister and her husband (with a log for the fire) and their daughters/my nieces; my sister's sons/my nephews (next to Santa); my two nieces again, the older one is a huge Hanna Montana fan as well as a fan of her sister; my aunt (my mother's sister) in the coffee cup cardigan; my best friend from high school and his family; and my friend Oleg and his family.