Between the pages of a well-preserved copy of Alice Munro's Open Secrets, that I bought at a second-hand store a few weeks ago, I found a boarding pass. It was in pristine shape, for a slip of paper twenty years old, and it was dated on my birthday. I took this to be a good omen.
While my life was immersed in the minutiae of being a mother to a three-year-old, Ms. W. Takahashi was boarding a flight from Victoria to Smithers. It would have been Thanksgiving weekend, so perhaps Ms. W. Takahashi was returning home after visiting her elderly parents. They pressed her to stay, of course - they hadn't seen her since summer - but she had to be at work early the next morning. She had just started her job a month earlier, after all. She had yet to prove herself.
I was probably walking under a canopy of brilliantly lit maple leaves while she was heading to Gate 1 to board Central Mountain Air flight 993. No doubt I was carrying a handful of perfect red leaves that my three-year-old had insisted on collecting along the way. We would press them later, between wax, and fashion a wreath for the front door, a wreath that inexplicably survived a move halfway across the country three years later.
Perhaps it was the same Thanksgiving Day that will be forever etched in my memory as one of life's perfect moments, those moments when you are fully aware of just how lucky you are to be in that place at that instant, when you tell yourself always remember this. I do remember; I remember how the brilliant afternoon sun illuminated the one yellow tree among all the red ones along the street, I remember how I paused beneath its glowing canopy to feel the warmth, I remember how I savoured the crazy-making aroma of roasting turkey that wafted out from open windows all along the street.
I wonder what Ms. W. Takahashi, in her crisp white linen suit - pulling her neatly packed tiny suitcase along behind her - had for dinner that night. I wonder if her parents had pressed specially made family favourites upon her, insisting that she take them along for her solitary meal. She would have had to unzip her new rolling suitcase to find a spot for those delicacies among the neatly folded clothes.
Her mother's eyes had misted up as she took Ms. W. Takahashi's slender hands in her own gnarled ones. Her father had nodded stoically as she hugged him goodbye. It had been a good weekend, and she would be back for Christmas.