They look travelled. Not like a person rolling their carry-on holding a Starbucks cup on one hand at the airport travelled, but worn down brown-leather boots travelled. The travelled whose face skin-creases’ light shaded color glows as if out from the center of the leather fold of the boots’ worn cover. Their eyes half-open, and without energy to form emotion on their tired faces. Still, they stand firm, holding on to three children all-the-while holding on to one oversized canvas shopping bag. Their luggage.
She is vigilant, looking around at her surroundings, trying to pick up as much as possible to ensure no mistakes are made as her and her family’s documents are scanned by the Homeland Security officer sit-standing between the line of waiting travelers and their turn at taking off shoes and enduring never-ending renditions of “take everything out of your pockets, take off your belt, take off your shoes, and take all electronics out of your bags and put them in a bin”. The family’s clothes look like they’ve been on them for weeks. Clean, but worn.
He has the youngest child on his left hand, the family bag on the other, and holding on to the other two by sight alone. He is slightly shorter than his wife, but looks stronger than the more-average, and well-fed, 6’ 1” American officer scanning their documents and faces in front. He says nothing and seems to understand that his wife will tend to documents and surroundings while his role is with the family bag and the children.
The kids are not wrestles. Odd for kids that age. One is no older than 4 years old, followed by a 6-year-old, and the oldest, a girl, is 9 or 10 years old. They are tired, quiet-excited by the adventure, and intimidated by so many people and their hectic rhythm of shoes flying into a bin and jackets coming off their bodies almost simultaneously. They are in awe.
The youngest little girl is holding a dirty stuffed bear in her arm. It used to be white, but is now the color of grey skies before it rains. There is no telling if the bear was with her from the beginning of the 23-day journey the family took from their native Costa Rica to the US-border, or if it was given to her by someone at the immigration detention center where they have spent the last month after being detained by border police on the US side of the border.
As they deposit their sweaters and jackets into bins, she looks exhausted, not being able to keep up with the same steps other travelers are taking at different bin-belt lines. He remains vigilant, ensuring the children are within arms-length. Simultaneously, both seem to have eyes on their hands as they can take off shoes, belts and other garments from the children without taking their eyes off of the horizon, their surroundings and of the distance. As they wait for their bins to disappear into the dark tunnel of the x-ray machine, the children quietly stand near enough to feel their body-heat, and mom and dad look at uniformed people to lift a finger pointing the way to the next action step. They are ushered through a separate entry, sparing them of the dreaded body-scan “empty your pockets, stand here and put your hands up like the image in front of you” machine. Security officers must understand this family is not trying to bring anything illegal into an airplane, as they barely understand where they are to begin with.
The last I saw of them they were waiting for their bins to come out of the x-ray machine on the other side. As a plane’s take-off was now visible through a large window nearby it dawned on the middle child they were about to get on a plane, and his eyes opened wide with excitement. A tiny smile was visible as this secret was his to keep for the time being. His mother was standing next to him, looking at the same plane take off, and her eyes watered until a tear appeared and glided down her cheek.