Travelling to the past

(May 15) Well here I am at Frankfurt Airport with the last leg of my trip to London in front of me. I have had the good fortune of travelling almost every year since 1978 so the vagaries of airlines, airports and flight schedules don’t phase me too much. In fact being older seems to be easier as one knows what to expect. My amazement is always the number of people travelling and the size of the airports. In ’78 Cape Town was this tiny airport with a couple of buildings spanning domestic and international. Now it is a sprawling commercial hub where you could go simply to shop and soak up the traveller’s excitement and travel vicariously through the masses of people moving through. What never ceases to amaze me is the size, a testament to our growth and how important tourism is for our country.

But airports are fairly boring- they are simply a stepping stone to our final destination, which this time for me is the UK. I left 46 years ago and while it is no longer home, the familiarity is very comforting, language, people, places. Each time I visit I see it with fresh eyes and that in itself makes the trip another adventure. What prompted me to come here rather than visit newer destinations was the birth of a new great – nephew and my sense of family has become stronger over the years. What a reversal!

As a 22 yearold escape was my motivation – anything, preferably, 6000 miles of distance, to ensure there was no family influence. Now, with the years in between having ebbed and flowed in the river of life,  it is connection rather than imposition that I seek, and a small sharing of our history and future.

Later: Arriving at Heathrow and the joy of meeting a new member of the family! Family units are so different from when we were young. Then we were surrounded (suffocated sometimes) by cousins, aunts and, uncles, but now we are spread across the world and  family units are small and tight and incredibly self sufficient. Not lonely but so different, as friends provide the support which once family did. And more often with an unbiased view.

So meeting my great nephew Joshua and chatting with Jeannie, my niece was a one on one expereince, fully focused and honest. Different to the old days of family get-togethers when you struggled to get a word in sideways.,

This is the time then, as an elder, to share the stories of families past and allow this younger generation a glimpse of how we lived and who we were. A chance for them to see their roots and pass stories on to the new generation.

To travel through past times to meet the present.

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