Winging Away

The airport is buzzing with people who have holiday and family on their minds

Busy Scene At Bwi

November 22, 2007|By Abigail Tucker | Abigail Tucker,Sun reporter

The day before Thanksgiving at an airport is a time for tenderness and tension. A grandmother frets over the fate of the pecan tarts packed away in her suitcase. A mother hopes that hauling two strollers 600 miles to Chicago absolves her from cooking anything at all. And though most people are only going away for a weekend, the concourses are crowded with pieces of luggage the size of Macy's floats.

The stress can snap the hardiest traveler like a wishbone.

Usually the most interesting place at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is the observation deck, where 737s can be seen launching into the sky.

But yesterday, the real action was at the ticket counters, departure gates and baggage claims where the masses were gathered. Already everyone seemed hungry for something or other: the racks of Oklahoma-style smoked ribs that Dad likes to serve with the turkey, or Mom's mashed potatoes mounded as high as the clouds above the runway.

Hungry for other things, too -- to get away, to come back.

Hungry for home.

`I can't wait'

Army Pvt. Johnathan Truss hasn't seen his mother in two years, but he misses her so much he has spoken with her almost nightly from the barracks at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he has been in training for the past three months.

As of yesterday, about the only thing he hadn't shared with Ida Truss of Lincoln, Ala., was his plan to be home for Thanksgiving.

"They don't expect me until Dec. 1," said Truss, 24, of his parents and seven siblings as he waited for a 1:20 p.m. flight to Birmingham yesterday. "I can't wait to see their faces."

The holiday means kith-and-kin time for Truss, the youngest of eight children (the oldest is 42), and that includes encounters with four sisters, three brothers, buds from surrounding Talladega County, and a few weighty slabs of Ida's specialty: homemade pecan pie with dollops of French vanilla ice cream.

"I've got a sweet tooth," he said. "If it's not ready when I walk in the door, I'll put in a request."

It'll be tasty "R&R" for the E-1, who completed training in his occupational specialty -- generator repair -- this week, just in time for a coming deployment to Afghanistan. Each day, he has risen at 4:30 for physical training, then tackled eight hours of classes. "Nod off," he said, "and [the instructor] gives you push-ups on the spot."

Not this weekend. Once his family get over their shock, he expects to sleep in this morning, then soak up the latest gossip ("it's a small town"), trash-talk his brother Terrell, 32, over the coming Auburn-Alabama game (Johnathan hates the Crimson Tide) and finally, if that exchange doesn't go too badly, take one of Terrell's Tennessee walkers on a long ride through the woods -- in sweat pants, not his combat uniform.

"Country living," he sighed.

One other thing he hasn't told Ida: the news about Afghanistan. Her baby just found out he'll be there, with the 10th Mountain Division, for 15 of the next 24 months.

The idea doesn't scare him -- "I hear things have calmed down," he said, though he concedes that he knows little about the place -- but he'll miss knowing Ida, the other Trusses and a whole lot of home cooking are no longer just a plane ride away.

"Family and loved ones," he said when asked what he's most thankful for this year. "For the next few days, I'll be stocking up."

Jonathan Pitts

Some new traditions

Because roasting a turkey the old-fashioned way took all day, there used to be a lot of time on Thanksgiving for other things: the grandchildren's annual race around the garden, for instance, and for playing near the old bridge that was destroyed in a storm many years back.

"We cooked that turkey a long, long time," recalled 77-year-old Marian Lewis of Olney as she waited near a Southwest Airlines curbside baggage check. "And slow." She always used an oatmeal stuffing recipe inherited from her Scottish-born mother.

"You could really smell it," said her husband, 84-year-old Russell Lewis, puffing appreciatively on a cigarette. And it was perfect with sweet potato casserole.

There will be no oatmeal stuffing this year for Marian and Russell, who were bound for San Diego and the homes of two grandchildren, now grown. They will be eating a turkey obtained from a HoneyBaked Ham store.

"My granddaughter says it's Cajun-style," Marian said. Her voice dropped: "I think it's already cooked."

But turkey isn't really the point of the pilgrimage. They haven't yet met their fifth great-grandchild, now a year old. Marian recently knitted a Christmas stocking for the girl. "She has a beautiful smile," she said -- although her great-grandparents have seen it only in pictures.

The Lewises don't get nostalgic for the old days of oatmeal stuffing, delicious though it might have been.

"We're happy for new traditions," Marian said. "Everything is a little different."

Abigail Tucker

Jamaica Thursday

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