A few weeks ago, I went to stay with my family for a week in Canberra. I arrived the night before my parents were due back from a six-week overseas trip, and my two brothers picked me up at the airport. Every time I see them together now, I’m struck by how strange it is that my little bros are adult men. One of them has a beard, even. They’re both taller than I am, and I’m very aware that if I were ever to push at either of them, like I might have when we were kids, I would lose. (Actually, I tried this once, jokingly, a few years ago. I ended up falling into a bush when the inevitable playful shove back came.)
The next morning, I had several hours with just my two brothers before we were due to pick our travelling parents up from the airport, and I realised later that it was the first time in years the three of us had been alone together. One of the things I love most about my brothers is that we somehow seem to get the balance of seriousness and silliness just right when we spend time together. That morning, we stood together in my parents’ half-finished new kitchen drinking coffee and making breakfast, alternately talking about the big stuff in our lives and engaging in silly banter and giggling. (And I insisted on taking pictures of our feet.)
Somewhere in that time, we decided that it would be hysterically funny if we managed to get ourselves taken away by airport security just as Mum and Dad walked through the arrivals gate. The amusement came in some strange way from the idea that, as we were taken away, we’d be able to yell out at our parents: “Look what happens when you leave us alone!” Which, actually, was probably a weird way of us being able to talk about how much we’d all missed Mum and Dad, and how much we were looking forward to seeing them. Warped, I know.
So the car trip to the airport was spent discussing in great detail the different ways we could get the attention of airport security, and what we’d have to do to get them to take us into custody. There were plenty of options, but the one we seemed to keep coming back to was starting a fist fight. Which I was sure to lose, I now realise.
The night before, we’d been to the supermarket and picked up a couple of Mars Bars as a welcome home present for our parents (a family in-joke). When we got to the terminal, we realised we’d left them in the car. It became a matter of great importance that someone go back to the car to get the chocolate bars, but also a point of contention as to who that should be and whether it would mean that person would miss out on the all important moment of arrival/taking away. This could spell disaster for our plan. It had been a foggy morning, and it was likely that the plane would have been delayed, so the older of my two brothers decided he’d take a gamble and make a run for the car. The younger and I decided we’d go to the arrivals gate itself.
It turned out that the running had been completely unnecessary, because the flight had indeed been delayed. We waited near the arrivals gate, watching the sun rise higher in the sky. As we waited, we brainstormed the timing of our ridiculous welcome plan. How could we make sure that we were apprehended at precisely the right moment?
Waiting at the same gate for someone arriving on the same plane were three young men dressed in different animal suits, and we chastised ourselves for not acquiring a crocodile onesie each. Perhaps an animal suit would have been a more appropriate way of making a big deal out of our parents’ arrival.
When the plane finally landed, we stood by the windows watching to see if our parents would cross the tarmac, or use the aerobridge. We bickered vaguely about where we should stand when they came out at the gate. At the last minute, we abandoned all plans to get the attention of airport security, and hoped that the Mars Bars would be enough of a welcome.
Mum and Dad entered the airport at the same time as the friend of the three blokes in animal suits. Our parents noticed us first, of course, but the onesies and animal heads were hard to miss.
“Why didn’t you guys dress up like that?” Dad said.
“Why are they dressed up like that?” Mum said.
We handed them the Mars Bars.