Yesterday the Family hit the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester PA. This museum is a gem; it’s small but packs a lot into a small space and has top-notch displays, including a complete V22 Osprey. A few weeks back the Family sans me visited the museum and discovered that it was running a “Pennies per pound” special: for $.15/lb members of the nearby Brandywine Airport would take you up in a plane for a ride.
I have to admit that I was nervous, but having grown up in a household with a dad who was afraid of storms and driving on the interstate, I’ve learned to be very careful with expressing my fears to the Kid. I don’t want him growing up with the same neuroses that I have; nope, he’ll have to get his own new ones.
The event was run by The 99’s - a group of women devoted to spreading the gospel of Flight started by Amelia Earhart in 1929. The crowd was small but extremely friendly, ranging in age from toddlers to people in their nineties. The Kid & I took to the skies in a Cessna Skyhawk owned and piloted by a guy who looked to be in his early 30’s. A computer programmer by trade, the guy handled his plane confidently and I lost the last of my nerves as soon as his plane took to the air.
Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly. It is a lifelong dream that began with model airplanes hanging from the ceiling in my pediatrician’s office and later my own room as a kid. It has disappeared in the haze of life, clouded by other responsibilities and tasks only to reappear as crystal clear like it had always been there.
I sat in the back seat behind the Kid and the pilot as he took the plane to about 1,500 feet, explaining what he was doing to the Kid over our headsets. Meanwhile I felt like a puppy in a car, leaping from window to the next, taking in the lush Spring foliage of southeastern suburban Pennsylvania gently rolling below us on a sunny and slightly hazy day. Flying this way in such a small craft is different from the commercial travel I’ve known. It is to commercial flight as a motorcycle on winding country roads is to car travel on the interstate. The fact that about a quarter inch of aluminum separated me from plummeting to my death occurred to me but didn’t trouble me in the least.
After the plane landed I spent the next 30 minutes talking to our pilot as the dream settled in, returning after its long absence. I stood at the edge of the runway watching the other planes take off and land, including a 1947 Piper Cub that the Wife and the Mother-in-law each took turns flying in. I saw the planes and knew that I could do it.
Langston Hughes wrote a famous poem about deferred dreams, yet failed to capture what had happened to mine. It didn’t fester or crust-over; it came back as new and as fresh as ever. It never died; in fact I don’t think it can die. It is such a part of me that I suspect that it won’t die until I do.
Does this mean I will run to take lessons tomorrow? No, but the time will come when I take to the sky again, and it will be sooner than even I suspect.
The Kid (disguised as George Clooney) & I and a Cessna Skyhawk