Annabella was an independent little six-year-old girl. There was not a thing that this little girl did not miss and her exploration sometimes got her in trouble. Her mother at times felt she was a handful. Nevertheless, she loved her child. It was nice for Annabella that her grandmother was just two houses from where they lived. It was common that Annabella came up missing from the yard. After checking on her child and couldn’t find her, she called her mother to see if she was there. Her precocious little girl was usually at her grandmother’s.
Annabella loved to visit her grandma. She would come bounding into the kitchen, screen door slamming, greeting her grandma with a big “HI” and a hug. When her house smelled good, she knew she would get a treat.
The grandmother sat down next to her granddaughter at the kitchen table. Today, grannie baked brownies. Usually Annabella would chatter nonstop but today she sat quietly eating her snack. As grannie looked at the child with a beautiful complexion, blue eyes and hair flowing down over her shoulders, she saw such hope and potential of what she was capable of becoming.
With each bite of her snack, Annabella looked around the kitchen. Grannie would ask an occasional question; the child would reply “no” or just shrug her little shoulders. Grannie became concerned about what was troubling her little granddaughter.
After a little pause, grannie asked, “Would you like to hear about when I was about your age?” Annabella nodded her head up and down. Grannie looked at the child and began to speak. When I was in grade school, I had two friends and we did everything together including sharing our secrets with each other. They were my best friends. School came to an end and summer couldn’t go by quick enough to see my two friends again.
When school started in the fall, things were not the same. My two friends seemed different to me. They were not as friendly with me and wanted to do other stuff. I wondered what had happened during the summer. A few weeks into school, these two girls turned on me. They started saying bad things about me that were not true and they would say mean things to me. I was really hurt that they didn’t want us to be friends anymore.
I came home crying. My mother asked what was wrong. I told her what had happened. She held me and said that she was sorry for what happened and said that those two girls were a true reflection of their insecurity and I should feel sorry for them. I know you are disappointed and it hurts to think they didn’t treat you well, but it will get better and you will find a true friend. After a moment grannie began again. My mother looked down at me and said, “You are a good person with many wonderful talents and we love you just the way you are.”
With a loving look grannie leaned closer to Annabella, then my mother gave me this piece of advice about people: “Some come into your life for a short time, other people stay a little longer but eventually fade away. However, there are very few people that become true friends that last a lifetime. The trick is to wait to find those people who can be a true friend for life.”
Taking a deep breath, Annabella looked at her grandmother thinking about what she had shared, then in a soft voice she said, “Thanks grandma,” and kissed her on the cheek as she darted out the kitchen door to go back home.
“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds on earth and danced the sky on laughter’s silvered wings.
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds
And done a hundred things you have not dreamed of.”
Although I will admit that today’s flight experience is not quite as ethereal as John McGee describes in my favorite poem, I still love to fly. Disregard the stress of traffic and weather delays to the airport. Forget about the intimidating body scan at the TSA checkpoint. Slide right past the Southwest seat selection system. Which happens to be complicated for me: no little kids, no big, sweaty guys, no dogs, no coughers, and no one tucking into a sloppy sandwich. My ideal seat is next to a skinny sleeper, up front and on the aisle. In spite of the airport aggravations, when that plane “slips the surly bonds” and “climbs sunward” I fill with my own brand of “tumbling mirth.”
My first flying experience happened 50 years ago on my honeymoon, when ladies got dressed up in your best travel attire, complete with nylons and heels, and practically walked right on to the plane after checking your bags. We were travelling to Spain on a night flight. As I gaped out the huge windows at Detroit Metro, I was awestruck as the enormous nose of a 747 materialized out of the darkness like a dinosaur in the mist. It had roomy seats that tilted back enough to sleep. The meals were hot, delicious and not prepared by me. You could cuddle up with a pillow and blanket, dozing until the sun peeked through your window and you caught the aroma of pancakes and fresh coffee. This girl from the eastside of Detroit who had never travelled in anything other than a city bus or my dad’s old Chevy, was in love!
I’m pleased to say my love affair with flying is still hot and heavy—a good thing since I now board a plane to cross the country about four times a year. But like in most affairs, I’ve endured 50 years of compromises. I now travel in sweatshirt and sweatpants, since you can’t get blankets aboard anymore. (Probably a healthier option!) Not too shabby since I have seen grown adults in their P.J.s. Socks and slides have replaced nylons and heels, courtesy of long lines and shoe removal protocol at the TSA. No jewelry—see above. Pack a purse with fruit and almonds, unless you can sustain yourself for several hours on a teensy bag of pretzels. And keep coffee to a minimum. You might not snag an aisle seat.
Yet, I find I don’t really need a comfy chair, a tasty meal or solicitous service to enjoy my flight experience. The one compelling reason I love to fly still remains. Whatever happens after you put those bags on the scale and emerge from TSA—it’s not your fault. You have now formally and completely surrendered culpability for any mishap or disaster and placed your fate in the snug embrace of the FAA. Lost luggage, arrival is delayed, connecting flight is missed—not your fault. Wing falls off, runs out of gas—not your fault. Pilot is drunk, terrorists on board—not your fault.
I can accept bad things happening, as long as it’s not my fault. There is a soothing serenity in the total lack of responsibility while flying in a plane. Kind of like giving blood, but you don’t get the big cookies. Maybe as I’m aging, and feeling less competent, I feel the need to be taken care of. Or maybe feeling stress from running the show is a Polish mom thing. But I treasure that half day of relinquished responsibility as I treat myself to a small Starbucks. In case I don’t get a seat on the aisle.
A Recipe for Calamity
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and walked through the door. Darkness had already settled outdoors.
Earlier that evening, on the way home from her job as a teacher in a local Young Chefs Academy, Margot had stopped at the pharmacy to have a prescription refilled. It was going to take about an hour, so it made sense to go home and have her dinner in the meantime. Inasmuch as she planned to go out again soon, and the evening was warm and balmy and still light outside, she left her car parked in the driveway with the windows open.
Margot finished the simple dinner she had prepared, cleaned up the dishes, and sat down to relax and read. Completely absorbed in her new mystery novel, another hour passed before she finally remembered the prescription at the pharmacy.
She started the car, drove down the street, and turned the corner when she became aware of movement in the back seat. Several thoughts raced through her head, such as, that’ll teach me to leave the car windows open, and oh my God, I’m dead. At any moment she expected to feel the cold blade of a knife against her throat, or the hard thrust of a gun in her temple, accompanied by a menacing voice saying, “Hand over your money and your car and no one gets hurt.” Too frightened to venture a glance in the rearview window, she held her breath, kept her eyes straight ahead, gripped the steering wheel tightly with sweaty hands, and continued to drive.
Suddenly there was a thump on the passenger seat next to her. She caught her breath.
Too petrified to turn her head to look, a quick peek out of the corner of her eye was all she could manage.
The face looking back at her was familiar.
“What are you doing here, Chester?” she cried.
“You know you scared the living daylights out of me.”
He gave her one of his lazy looks and continued the silent treatment.
Margot composed herself enough to say quietly, “I know. It’s my own fault. I shouldn’t leave the car windows open, especially at night.”
He responded softly with his usual, “Meow.”
Chester, a frequent visitor in her yard and sometimes even her house, was a big, long haired, orange and white, striped tabby who belonged to a neighbor. This was the first time he’d presented himself in her car.
She parked at the drugstore, closed the car windows, leaving them open just a crack for air, and locked the doors. From that night on she remembered never to leave her car doors unlocked or the windows open unless the car was secure in her garage. And she interpreted Chester’s visit as an auspicious reminder of what could very well have been a recipe for calamity.