It usually starts with a wave, hands high over the heads of the throngs of passengers coming off flights, as they take the final steps of their journeys in a river of people. Many squeal. Some run.
And then it ends, always, with an embrace, a big long hug that says, “You’re home.”
It is Thanksgiving, the busiest, most chaotic, most aggravating time to travel. It might also be the most joyous, and everywhere amid the noise and jostle at Logan Airport this week came mini-explosions of happiness as long-separated loved ones reunited.
“You’ve gotten so tall, I didn’t recognize you,” Marie Jo Darcy exclaimed to her 11-year-old granddaughter, Xolani Bonnet, after she gave her a big squeeze and then took a step back to get a good look at her.
Xolani had just gotten off a flight from Charlotte, and Darcy, who had not seen her granddaughter since March, could hardly wait to get her out the door and home to Sharon.
“Tomorrow we’ll do something fun,” she said as they hurried to the parking lot.
David Hill of Arlington spotted his girlfriend approaching after getting off a flight from Nashville, but she didn’t see him. She was texting him — “I can’t find you” — when he snuck up behind her and surprised her with a huge hug.
This led to a very long new-couple embrace, with more than a few kisses.
“It’s our second Thanksgiving as a couple, but our first time cooking,” she said.
Outside in the pickup zone at the curb of Terminal C, amid the clogged traffic and beeping horns, the same scenes played out over and over — except faster, to avoid the wrath of the prowling state troopers.
“There’s my man,” Gabby DeSouza shouted to her father, Manny, as she ran up to his car. She’s a student at the University of Tampa and hasn’t been home to Boxford since she left for school in August.
There were many college students wearing college sweatshirts all over the airport, along with many parents delighted to fill the empty nest again, if only for a few days.
One student sprinted toward a car. Another got his welcome home kiss from the family dogs, so excited to see him they looked like they were going to jump out the car window.
Inside the terminal, Tanya Russell was trying to figure out which escalator her best friend, Kristan Couper, who was flying from Atlanta, was going to come down. It had been two and a half years since they’d seen each other, and Russell could not wait to give her a big hug and take her to her home in Wyndham, N.H.
“I’m just looking forward to laughing. She makes me laugh like no one else,” Russell said.
When they finally found each other — which took a while because Couper had accidentally left her phone in the Atlanta airport — it was not laughter that greeted her but tears, big sobs as the childhood friends from North Carolina squeezed each other and cried and then squeezed some more.
Josh Rutberg had come off a flight from San Francisco an hour before and decided to wait for his sister, Nicole Di Resta, to arrive from Maryland with her husband and three kids. Her youngest, a boy, was wearing a T-shirt that read: “Sorry, I don’t do quiet.”
“It feels awesome to be around family and friends. This is what it’s all about,” Rutberg said after throwing his arms around his sister and each of the rest of the crew.
They gathered their things and headed to the curb. Rutberg’s parents had been stalled by traffic but were on the way. All around them, people were doing the same as they were, scanning faces and watching for the familiar ones they awaited.
At last, Rutberg spotted his dad and saw the emphatic wave over the dashboard and the shoehorning of the car into a tiny space.
His father popped the trunk, walked around to the back, and gave his grown son a good, long hug.
Billy Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.