Handsel Monday

January 2, 2006

According to a piece in World Wide Words, Michael Quinion’s online newsletter, the first Monday in the New Year is known as “Handsel Monday.” It’s an old Scottish festival, once the main midwinter celebration. “Handsel” is a Middle English word for luck or a good omen. It became the name for a gift given on any special occasion, such as taking on a new job or beginning some enterprise.

I stand between two worlds today. Holidailies, the posting festival I participated in, runs through this week, and since I started it at Enormous Moments, I thought I should finish it there. Today’s post is called “Moving Forward,” but I really feel that I stayed in one place today.

I like to think of my “regular” (that is, non-holiday season) life as having a certain predictable rhythm. I stay at home and “work” (that is, tend to my writing and reading) on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and go out and about on Thursdays and Fridays. So that makes today a work day.

I did do a little reading, and the posting to Holidailies. But mostly I was out and about. I had to take Lynn to the airport in Baltimore (about a two-hour trip) for her flight west to visit her high school best friend McKenna, who lives in St. George, Utah, with her father and attends Brigham Young University.

Normally, this is an easy, zippy trip. Lynn travels easily and well and doesn’t need any help negotiating check-in. No one without a ticket can accompany her past the security gate anyway, so I usually just drop her at her airline’s gate and start on my way back. Last summer I dropped her off for an early morning flight and was back in Harrisburg in time for the 11:00 service at church.

Today’s trip was miserable, except for the pleasure of Lynn’s company. It was raining, hard at times. We followed Yahoo’s directions carefully. At one point, however, after you leave the Baltimore-Washington beltway, you’re convinced you’re lost. You drive through several miles of what looks like an industrial area of loading docks and factories, with nary a sign to say “Airport — This Way.” Lynn insisted that it had looked like this last summer too (only sunnier), but I was about to turn back when suddenly the scenery changed and we did indeed see the signs for all the choices (Rental Car Return, Drop-Off Only, Short-Term Parking). I had her mark in big letters on my directions sheet, “This will look wrong! Keep going! Have faith!” because I have to make this same trip to retrieve her next Monday.

It was only 3:30 by the time all the airport signs were behind me. Somehow I got going the wrong way on Maryland Route Something and was headed into Washington instead of away from it, and it took about ten miles to correct the situation. It was still raining and foggy by the time I got to Towson. It was my intention to stop off at a shopping center near Goucher College that has a Crane’s stationery store and a nice restaurant inside the Nordstrom’s. But I would have had to be guessing at which exit and which turn after the exit, remembering the way as I saw it coming, and visibility was just not very good.

So I kept on going, stopping at an Arby’s near York, Pennsylvania.

Back to real work, maybe, tomorrow.

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