Fasten Your Seatbelts

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Neither my parents nor grandparents ever traveled on a plane nor did they ever express a desire to visit any place beyond the United States. My father had wanderlust like a fever so I suspect that had he lived beyond his thirty three years he would have eventually become a world traveler. He had already made his way to most of the states and planning vacations was one of his most avid hobbies. At the time of his death flying was still a kind of luxury that he could ill afford but I have little doubt that he would have eventually found his way onto a jet to cross the globe. 

After Daddy was gone vacationing usually meant visiting his parents in Arkansas or spending a few days in San Antonio or Austin. Most of the time it just meant not having to go to school rather than actually packing up and driving to some far away destination. I did not miss exploring other places because I had burned out on long hauls after our whirlwind year of driving to California and back to Texas again just before my father’s demise. Somehow I associated long trips with the end of his life and so I had little desire to be anywhere but home. 

The first time I rode on a plane was on my honeymoon. My husband and I flew to New Orleans, a quick jaunt from Houston by air. In those days we had to walk onto the tarmac and climb a flight of stairs to reach the cabin. Friends without tickets were allowed to follow us to take photos of the big event. There was a naïveté about the whole process that is now long gone. I was so excited about being married that I actually recall little about the flight other than the fact that a cabbie who drove us to the French Quarter from the New Orleans Airport took a circuitous route that cost us a fortune in fare. 

It would not be until twenty years later that I would fly again. Life took hold of me and the idea of jetting off somewhere seemed overly frivolous. Instead my little family and I travelled across America by car, camping in the outdoors and creating awesome memories. Then we suddenly received a free ticket to anywhere in the USA as a promotion from our bank. It was time for me to fly again. 

My dear friend Linda had recently moved to Los Angeles and I missed our fun times together so I decided that I would use that ticket to go see her. My daughter Maryellen wanted to visit the family as well so I purchased an additional fare for her and we were off to see the Schefflers in LaLa land. From that moment forward I was hooked. I found the take off and the landing to be exhilarating and I had no sooner returned home than I was mentally planning my next journey. A whole new world lay before me and I began to understand why travel had brought so much joy to my father. Going by air made even places across the ocean accessible.

I might have been in Scotland last May but for COVID 19. I gladly gave up that dream for the sake of precaution but I find myself more and more often longing to hear phrases like “Fasten your seatbelts” or “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are ready for takeoff.” I long to be able to explore the world once again, a treat that I suppose I had begun to take for granted before the virus made it impossible. 

I’m not sure when there will be freedom to travel anywhere I wish once more. I worry a bit that I it will take far longer than we once thought. I miss being able to so easily jump on planes to see the world like it was only a year or so ago. I am more than eager to plan a whirlwind tour across Europe and settle into a seat on a plane that will take me wherever I wish to go. 

In the meantime my husband and I are busy planning a camping trip for the summer. We know how to do that quite well and we are certain that such journeys are always fun. I have the patience to wait until it is deemed safe to fly somewhere without having to quarantine in a hotel for weeks. I’m optimistic that I will once again hear all of those familiar phrases that tell me that I am about to leave the ground and fly in the air to the places that fill my dreams. 

I’ve decided that I will never again take juch trips for granted nor will I be frugal and purchase economy seats. My last experience in the “cattle car” section of a plane was excruciating. I’d rather go less often in the comfort of business class than sit for hours with my knees in my chin and my arms cramping from having to hold them so close to my chest. My old bones really can’t take such cramped quarters for twelve hours anymore. My last trip in the back of a plane felt way too much like the long journey to and from California of my youth when I was stuffed in the backseat of the car with my two brothers for hours on end, sometimes sleeping on the floorboard while my siblings snoozed on the seat. I suppose today’s economy class for overseas flights give me flashbacks that I do not wish to recall.

I’m confident that the day is coming when I will be settled into my seat filled with anticipation as the wheels go up and the pilot announces that we are on our way. I am patient for now but in truth I can hardly wait to fasten my seatbelt.  

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