Une femme loves to fly. I love almost everything about it (except the lines and the hassle of practically stripping down to skivvies to go through security and then having to scramble to put everything back on and grab possessions off the conveyor and the appalling lack of legroom in coach, even for 5'1" me). I love the smell of jet fuel as you get close to the airport. I love seeing the planes lined up at the gates and love watching them take off and land. I love finding my seat and the acceleration as we take off. I love seeing the familiar and unfamiliar landscapes spread out like maps below me.
First flight, here's what I remember: I was 4, my sister 1-1/2. Being trussed up in our best clothes (fancy dresses, stiff petticoats, patent leather mary janes) and lectured about how we'd better behave, dammit. Passing through a large hangar-like building and crossing the tarmac and up the stair-on-wheels to board the plane. Jr. Hostess wings from the stewardesses (back then they were all female) and going up front to meet the pilots and see the cockpit. Chewing gum to make our ears pop. A hot meal with silverware (at that point the most elegant meal I'd had in my young life). Looking out the windows and playing with the shades. Saying "wheee!" when we hit turbulence. Using the (then) space-age potty. Landing in Chicago, sleepy. Light fixture on the ceiling at Midway airport looked like stars. Boarding the plane for Wheeling, having to walk uphill from the back of the plane to our seats. Little cloth curtains on the windows, and the wings had propellers. Waking up as we landed.
Another flight I'll never forget involved propellers as well. When I was 16, my mother, my sister and I had flown with another family to Vancouver, and were connecting to Victoria. My mother was a nervous flyer and hated smaller planes and propellers especially. When we got to the boarding area and she saw that our connecting flight involved both, she headed to the nearest bar and started drinking. By the time we took off, she was already at twenty thousand feet. It was a beautiful flight that stayed fairly low and we flew over pretty green islands, some with sheep on the hills. On landing, which was a little bumpy but nothing out of the ordinary, our mother threw her head into her lap and started screaming "we're going to DIE! We're going to DIE!" (Oh, and during the flight she'd burned a hole in her dress with her cigarette.) The whole cabin of twenty or so people cracked up but we pretended we didn't know her until we got into our rental car.
Then, for a lot of years, I didn't fly at all. When I did start flying again, it was a new era, no longer special or elegant. People in sweats pushed and shoved to board, the seats were sometimes covered in crumbs or stuffed with trash from the last occupant, the flight attendants were surly. It had become Greyhound with wings.
If you're reading this on Monday, I am probably somewhere between home and the airport, or waiting to board my flight, or 32,000 feet over Missouri, or landing in New York. But there's another flight I plan to take sometime in the few months, and it doesn't involve crowds or even pressurized cabins:I had planned to take a ride in an open cockpit bi-plane for my 50th birthday, but then we went to Paris instead. I had hip surgery a few weeks before my 51st birthday. But I'm not going to wait for another birthday to pass before I have this adventure. The ironic part is that mon mari hates flying, and so I'll probably have to take my son up with me. He shares my love of the wild blue yonder.