As I am still in the midst of reading a very thick book and am a week away from two major assignments due for the end of the Uni semester, I thought I’d do something a little different for this blog post and post a short nonfiction piece I wrote for class earlier this semester. The brief was to write about a place, and explain through our writing why it’s significant. My piece is in the style of memoir and, as we know, memoir relies on memory which can become distorted with time. Therefore, despite this being written as a creative nonfiction piece, I am sure I am remembering some of the parts incorrectly. If I was submitting this piece for publication I’d research some more and do several more drafts, I’m sure, but here it is, in its assignment format…
Terminally Changing – an original piece by me (2013)
It seems that every time I visit Adelaide Airport, the look of it has changed but the feel of it remains the same. When my family arrived in Australia after our long journey from the former Yugoslavia in December 1982, we were greeted at the airport by the scorching summer heat, the tarmac shimmering as we stepped off the plane and walked across its grey length. The sun beat down on us, the shelter of the terminal feeling so far away to a child of three years old. The cooler air greeted us as the doors slid open to welcome us into Adelaide, where my Uncle waited. Our shoes were silent on the carpet in contrast to the noise of the plane’s engines outside as we approached the baggage carousel, the black fringed plastic at its mouth yawning and spitting out a bag intermittently.
I remember looking around, feeling so small in a room full of adults bustling for their belongings and all searching for their loved ones here to greet them. The walls were painted some shade of white, chipped in places where baggage trolleys had scarred them. The walls looked naked apart from the odd poster advertising tourist attractions, or the souvenir shop conveniently located on the way out, or reminding people that they weren’t to bring in fruit. The building seemed to pulse with the thrum of the people in it, and carried the marks of age.
When I was in my teens, I decided to take a trip to Townsville to see some friends for what was my first journey alone. Brown seemed to be the shade of choice for the outside of the building, the dark bricks blending into the same shade on the tin roof. I stepped into the airport and into adulthood, my nervousness growing as the glass doors closed behind me. For a solo traveller, it was easy to find my way around. Signs kept order and structure, pointing travellers to the Departure area, where we lined up obediently. The empty priority queue for Business Class customers seemed to taunt the rest of us with its toothless grin, as if to say, ‘this could have been all for you’. In the 1990s, blue was the colour of choice inside the terminal. The signs were blue, the carpet, worn in some places, was a mixture of blue and grey, and the counter I checked in at was blue. Who knew there were so many different blues in a colour palette?
After checking in and making my way through the security scanner, I passed the souvenir shop with its bright neon lighting, and the bar with its softer, broodier lighting, and made my way to the newsagency cum book store. This seemed a popular space for travellers. I spotted a woman slowly leafing through a magazine while her companion bought himself a newspaper. They looked like ‘typical’ tourists, with their beige caps on even though they’re inside a building, their sunglasses seated atop their caps, and their bum-bags clipped on around their waist. I plucked a book off the shelf, bought it, and followed more signs to my gate, where the herd of people gathered and awaited further instructions. I sat on a blue plastic chair, noting the gum stuck to the back of a chair in the next row. Outside, the clouds had rolled in and the rain had started, and this walk across the tarmac to the plane was destined to be a wet one, and more of a run.
By 2013 Adelaide Airport has grown, as have I. Its multi-storey carpark and pedestrian bridge look down onto trucks and workmen constructing the next piece of the jigsaw. There are no more forced marches across the tarmac, the building is many times bigger than the old abandoned terminal, there are more than three or four stores, and there are more security guards. Signs still shepherd people through, but they are no longer blue. The people themselves though still seem familiar. There’s a tourist couple in their beige caps and khaki shorts. There’s a family speaking in a foreign language. There are people impatiently holding onto the partitions that separate them from their loved ones who have just disembarked, their sweaty palms marking the otherwise pristine glass. Every time I come here, no matter the renovations, people always leave their mark. And there they are: my sister and her children, and we join the other happy faces as we beam as bright as the sun and hold each other, and hold onto this moment.