Monday, July 13, 2009

From Toddler to World Traveler

In 1965 my military family “rotated” to Germany. My mother had an equal fear of water and flying at the time but boats were bigger and therefore safer so she chose to sail across with her 4-year old daughter and 18-month old me on her hip. Allegedly I preferred being carried than walking on my own. On the return two years later and now three small children Mom learned that it would only take eight hours instead of eight days with no chance of anyone falling overboard. Sold!

Our next adventure had us visiting Dad in Hawaii while he was on shore leave from Vietnam. TWA upgraded us so Mom could keep us together for the nonstop flight from Friendship International to Los Angeles. During our layover Mom put my older sister in charge while she went to the restroom. I knew we were flying Pan Am to Honolulu but had no clue which specific aircraft outside was ours. Just when I noticed Mom was gone I sighted a sleek blue and white 707 climbing in to the night sky. My 5-year old mind put two and two together and…

“Boo-WAAAAAAH!” My older sister couldn’t do anything with me but soon Mom reappeared to settle me down. “I, I, I saw dat Pan Am ai’pwane and thought you L-, L-, LEFT us!” Sob, whimper, bzzzrt. Anxious child.

The fun was just beginning. Once comfortably settled on our flight to Hawaii I slept until my ears popped on descent. Disoriented I looked out the window, saw the lights of Hawaii below me and gave a bone-chilling encore. Skittish child.

“We gon’ TWAAASH!” You know that voice: the high-pitched, ragged gurgle? Yea.

“Stop that noise!” admonished my mother from across the aisle.

“The wing’s falling off!” Lots of heads snapped to the windows. Silhouetted against the lights of Waikiki there was indeed a sharply angled crease in the trailing edge of the wing. Both sisters by now surely wished they were several rows away from me while some knowledgeable soul undoubtedly whispered what to say to Mom so she could reassure me once more.

“It’s not falling apart, those are the flaps unfolding to slow the airplane.”

Sniffle, snort. “Ok.” Mom knew all. I’m five: Like I know from flying? Sensitive child.

Hawaii was great. Dad rented a blue convertible, Motown ruled the radio, the Arizona Memorial and us three kids, none older than seven, enjoyed a rousing game of hopscotch at Punchbowl. My mom remains mortified to this day thinking of three Black kids in 1968 bunny-hopping across White folks’ gravestones, decorated servicemen all. Adventurous child!

Out of all this excitement a bug and a philosophy was born. I wanted to fly and I wanted to have unique and compelling adventures unlike anything I could find at home. Today’s issues around service, delays and security are not enough to keep me home when there’s so much to see, do and learn about ourselves and each other. Wedding? Reunion? The Taj Mahal? Let the journey begin!

Gotta go!

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