I’ve been quiet the last few weeks because September was a sad one for the gecko. The month finished off with the unexpected passing of my mother. I’ve spent the days since remembering so many fond memories, and it seemed fitting to dedicate a post to my parents’ introduction of air travel into my life.
I started flying at a very early age, thanks in no small part to the fact that my parents grew up in Northern Indiana. Being raised in Los Angeles meant that there were a large number of trips back to their hometown during my formative years. I can remember flights on Piedmont, Northwest, America West, United, Eastern and Western Airlines all before the age of ten. There’s that firm recollection of cruising on a 747 and climbing the stairs to the upstairs lounge with my dad and hanging out with him at the bar. Those trips shaped me in a very fundamental way. It’s because of them that I look up to the sky with such a deep longing.
From the very beginning, I was an easy flyer. No Screaming Baby Airlines here. My eyes were wide, staring out the window of a DC-10 as we sailed over the Grand Canyon. And I’ll never forget the time we flew home from Puerta Vallarta at age 6: My ears were held hostage by the hit single “I’ve Been to Paradise” playing on music channel 3 and we had to exit through the tail of the Western jet on the LAX tarmac at the end of our trip. I thought it was so neat that we got to ride a bus back to the terminal as planes rolled past on the taxiway. I’m pretty sure the rest of my family was just annoyed.
I feel quite fortunate that my parents were never shy about getting on a plane with my brothers and I in tow. We weren’t jet setters by any stretch of the imagination, they just felt it was healthy to get away from the local scene every once in awhile. My dad managed a manufacturing facility and we were a family of five, so there were never any posh business or first class trips in my youth. Mom loved going on an adventure. She had a strong belief that any escape, no matter how brief, was like a Snickers bar for the soul: It quenched the hunger for a life outside four walls.
Most times, these adventures involved more driving than flying. Boy Scout camping trips, drives up to Lompoc to see the monarch butterfly mating season, even trips 40 minutes North to Ventura to troll the thrift ships were journeys to be savored. She was the first to volunteer for any field trip in need of chaperones. And her eyes would sparkle as we experienced the world outside together. It was only natural that mine would do the same.
But when we did fly, man it was just so amazing to me. I didn’t care that we had to spend two weeks visiting relatives I barely knew because hey, we’re getting on a plane! Can I have the window seat? Is it by the wings? Yes, I brought my gum to help my ears pop during takeoff and landing. Can I have a deck of TWA playing cards for my collection? Check out the flaps stretching out from the edges as we get ready to land! Turbulence is fun!
All of it. every time.
Walking down a jetway still gives me a thrill. The anticipation of taking to the sky fires up my soul in a way so very few things can do. And I have my parents to thank for that joy which washes over me as I buckle my seatbelt. I have her to thank for those moments in a terminal when I just sit down and watch people moving like data packets through fiber channels to far-flung destinations. And of all the drives we would take around town as a child, I’ll remember most fondly the ones that paused at the travel agency because they came with a small blue folio filled with tickets to somewhere high above the ground. Somewhere time slows down, clouds roll lazily underneath my feet, my heart fills with wonder and my eyes scan the horizon with the hope that we’ll chase the sun all the way around the world.
And when we land, she’ll take me by the hand. She’ll smile mischievously at me and lead me, laughing, up the jetway and on to another great adventure.