The air was stagnant and the stale smell of recalculated air was pervasive. The chair began to hum rhythmically as the wind sang her lullaby at my reflection. As the world came into view, I squinted a bit as the sun that was bursting it's warmth upon me. Outside the window, the clouds shuttled by, high above the vastness of the deep blue endlessness below.
The Pacific Ocean in her majesty seemed to go on forever as did the questions that roamed in my head of what life would be like at my new home. My father was a military man and he recently received orders to transfer to Kadena Air Force Base. I had spent the past three years in Southern California, so coming to the Far East was a big change for me. Okinawa was my destination. It's an island located in the Ryuukyus more than 1000 miles south of Japan. However, for an ordinary American teenager it might as well be on Mars. I knew that moving from base to base every few years was part of the military culture, but living out the remainder of my high school years on it felt like a living nightmare. And to top it off, when you looked at it on a globe, Okinawa looked like a small rock floating on the western hip of the Pacific Ocean.
The pilot echoed "We are thirty minutes from touchdown and the weather is sunny and clear. Please get ready to land."
Sitting to my left was the guardian of my youth. His hair was black and his eyes were brown. He was easily 5 inches taller than me; brawnier and more masculine. A year older and definitely more reassured about moving. He was my lifelong companion, friend, and sports icon, my brother Tony.
He said, "Mike, I wonder what has changed?"
"Got me, the last time we were here I was only 6 years old. I just hope we can find a few good TV shows to watch." I replied in a half awake slur.
As my consciousness awoke, I could hear the reassuring voices of the Thompson Twins in distance. I realized my head phones had fallen off and that my walkman sat on my lap; forever growing quieter as each moment passed.
As I switched it off, I said, "Tony what do you want to do when we start school?"
My brother replied, "Make friends, plays some baseball, and meet a girl...but first let's see if we can find something to eat before we land."
My mother who sat across the aisle with my dad suddenly demonstrated her innate talent to read her son's minds. Within seconds, some a-ka-shi, rice crackers, magically appeared in her hand.
"Hi-mu-ji de-su-ka?" she said. We nodded and eagerly awaited the coming gifts.
As I looked out the window again, I could see the outline of the tiny green rock that would be our home of the next several years.
Little did I know at the time that this rock was really the crown jewel of my teenage memories.