The night had been too short, and now the flight attendant was coming around with a good morning wake up: hot coffee, a muffin, a mint and a wash-up in a foil wrapper. Sleepily, I broke a few pieces off the muffin and forced myself to eat them. Breakfast, at what was for me one AM, was hard to swallow. I washed it down with the coffee and opened the package containing the towelette. It felt good to wash my face and hands, and to clear the not-enough sleep from my eyes.
As I freshened up, I thought of the foil packaged towelette I had removed from my purse only a few hours earlier. That one had been in there so long the foil had cracked and the moist towel inside had dried and hardened. But I was “saving it.” I’m not sure why. Things I save in my purse almost never get used. Like the foil-covered chocolate with pen holes in the wrapper and sand (from the shells I was saving) sticking to the exposed candy. Or the sugar, which a long time ago had broken out of its package and lay on the bottom, covering my loose change, and getting under my fingernails whenever I reached for a quarter. Or the stick of gum, so hard that it could be shattered with a hammer. These and several other delights had been finally tossed out in the “I’m going on vacation” cleaning of my purse. I thought of them as I enjoyed the moist cloth freshening my face and hands.
Why hadn’t I used that other towelette, or chewed the gum? Why hadn’t I put that sugar in my tea, or enjoyed the fancy foil-wrapped chocolate? For what had I been saving them? To throw away when they eventually became unusable? And what else in my life had I been saving on the top shelf somewhere? A fancy dress? A sketch pad? The good china? Vacation brochures? Hopes? Dreams?
Suddenly things became so clear. Life, and all the good things in it, were meant to be lived, used, enjoyed and savored, not hidden away for later. For sometimes, later never comes, or when it does, it’s too late. The gum has hardened, the towelette has dried out, and we’ve missed it.
Just then, the voice of the pilot interrupted my thoughts to say we were landing in Shannon. The flight attendant made a hurried pass down the aisle, collecting the refuse from breakfast. I wadded up the cellophane from the muffin with the remains of the used towelette, put them inside my empty coffee cup, and handed the trash to the attendant. Then I checked my seat belt, placed my chair back and tray table into their upright positions, and tossed the mint into my purse for later.
I was ready for landing.
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