Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cleared for Take Off

Nine years ago, when I first started dating The Pilot, I took my first flying lesson. I had lived through watching a ton of air disasters on the news, but got in the plane anyway. He put me in the left seat, so I was “driving” while he gave me instructions from the right seat. Before I knew it, I was pulling back on the stick and we were floating. It was great! Until, of course, I looked over at my then boyfriend and saw his hands no where near any of the controls. I was flying the plane. ALONE!

I freaked out!

By the time we flew to Tahoe to get married, I was fairly comfortable with the bumps and wiggles that a small airplane takes when flying over mountains and through wind. In our first year of marriage, we took several local trips to Catalina Island or Vegas. I always flew from the right seat, helping with the transponder following our location and reading the sectionals charts, sometimes even taking control of the stick. Although I was still a bit nervous up in the air, I was technically ready for ground school at that point.

Then we had our first baby.

You know it goes when real life starts coming at you. It got a little trickier to travel. Then the second baby came and it got nearly impossible to fly for fun. If we did go up together it was for the purpose of getting to a family gathering, not just for pleasure or training.

Poor spoiled baby, right?

But it really was a bummer for me. I first went up in a little tin can airplane when I was fifteen. I was on vacation in Baja with my dad and his family. We met a dad and daughter while there. Heather was exactly my age. Exactly! We were born on the same exact day and merely hours apart. We hit it off just great and ended up spending endless days by the pool together while our boring dads and my step mom played cards. We’re in the middle of Baja and they’re playing cards. Whatever. Anyway, Heather and her dad had arrived in a little Cessna. They offered to take me up for a joy ride. I begged and begged my dad to go up. He finally relented.

And I was in love!

It’s amazing what you can see from a low altitude over the ocean. And in such a small vehicle, you kinda get the feeling that YOU are flying. I couldn’t stop giggling and squealing for quite some time after I landed. I was too young to think of all the horrible things that could have happened to me. I was just enjoying myself. I have never forgotten that. Later… much much later… I worked near an airport in North San Diego. My eyes would drift off mid sentence sometimes as I watched the planes coming in the traffic pattern to land. I remembered the day so many years before that I had floated above the turquoise waters and I couldn’t help but smile.

And then I landed The Pilot!

Being married to a pilot has some perks, but not the ones people usually think of. I don’t have a stack of tickets at my desk to jet off to some faraway destination any time I want. I usually have to drive to his destination with the kids and all of our bags. It’s less hassle than flying commercial, and besides, most of The Pilot’s destination are nowhere near a big airport that I could buy a ticket into. The drives usually aren’t so bad. But I beat myself up thinking how much sooner I could be somewhere if I would just get my license. There just always seemed to be something else to do.

But now, nine years later, everything is falling into place. I am so close to answering yes to the annoying question, “Do you fly, too?” I’m a little nervous, but I just can’t stop giggling as I do my ground school lessons. I keep thinking back to that joy ride in Baja. And that feeling of flying.

And I just can’t help smiling!

That’s me at fifteen just before take off in a single engine Cessna.

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