For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly.
Not so much in a machine, mind you, but to fly. On my own accord.
When I was a kid, my sister and I would drape rain slickers — fastened at the neck by one button, our arms hanging free — across our backs, then race down our swing set slide, flapping like mad. The plan was, once we neared the bottom of the slide, to give a mighty leap and take off into the air!
Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
But I never quit hoping.
My parents, I’m sure, figured I’d outgrow this “nonsense.” Unlike me, they never wanted to be in the air, even in a plane.
When I became an adult, I casually entered a contest in which the prize was a flight around town in a hot air balloon.
My parents thought I’d gone mad.
“What if it crashes?” they fretted. “What if it tangles up in power lines?”
I come from a long line of worriers, you see. Anything and everything has the potential for being life-threatening. Dangerous. Scary. Better off avoided.
But I wasn’t concerned.
I never win contests.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Imagine my surprise when the phone rang to inform me I’d won!
My Favorite Domer was just a little kid, and part of me wondered what would happen to him if the unthinkable occurred and my balloon did crash. The other part of me, however, looked into his little eyes and knew I had to model brave behavior — for him.
He had to see that Mommy didn’t let fear hold her back. That sometimes, you’ve just got to suck it up, turn a deaf ear to the naysayers, and live your dream.
My heart was tripping the day of the balloon ride. But the sky was cloudless and blue, the temperature was warm, and there was a perfect light breeze.
I watched the couple who were my pilots ready their (our) balloon for flight. Before I knew it, we were off!
What freedom! What glory!
Floating over the corn and soybean fields of central Illinois, high over the country roads, cars, and buildings.
It was truly as the balloonists’ say, “Mother Nature has taken you into the skies and returned you gently to Earth.”
Too soon, it was over. Besides my memory, I’m left with an empty bottle of champagne, autographed by my pilots and used in their “christening” ceremony for my virgin flight.
Would I go again? In a heartbeat!
As I’ve gotten older and people in my parents’ generation are dying around me, I’m reminded of something the nuns used to tell us in Catechism class:
One day, we, too, will die.
As a child, that didn’t worry me too much.
After all, I reasoned, when I die, I’ll probably get wings.
And wings will help me soar.
On my own!
Won’t THAT be cool?!