Saturday, December 17, 2005

Airports Remind Me of the Seventies

Friday, I travelled to Washington DC and back for a meeting for work. I spent the week before being a bit apprehensive about it. I worried that the plane would crash and my husband and babies would be left behind to fend for themseleves. It crushed my heart, actually, to put myself in what seemed to be such a risky place. But, my Dad, bless him, was the one to speak up and say, "I feel better about you being up in a plane than driving to the airport; it's much safer." That eased my mind enough to make it through the day.

I arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport at 7:30 a.m. and got in line for my security check. I had printed my boarding pass the night before and felt like a savvy traveler. That is until I was next in line and suddenly realized I had left my wallet with my ID in my car. So, I hustled back out into the parking garage, snagged my wallet and rejoined the line. I passed security with flying colors and began my three-mile hike to the farthest gate in the farthest concourse.

As I made my way underground, probably under runways, I took note of the artwork on the walls of the gray, tiled walkway. It was very modern but also kind of art deco. Remember making snowflakes out of paper by folding it up and cutting on the folds? It's that kind of thing, only with gray sheet metal, aviation designs, and what appeared to be bunnies. What is it with bunnies these days? Everyone is talking about them; they're so hot right now. Anyway, I walked briskly down the moving walkway with the friendly EPCOT lady voice-over telling me to stand to the right, walk on the left and look out here comes the end of the sidewalk.

Our flight was delayed about twenty minutes so I had a chance to catch my breath and get good and nervous. We walked down the umbilical cord (I don't know what these temporary paths to the airplane are called) and stepped on to the plane. I was a bit surprised to realize that it was such a tiny plane. There were twenty rows of three seats, one seat on the right side of the aisle and two seats on the left. I was surprised that my claustrophobia didn't immediately set in as I bowed my head under the low ceiling and turned to the side to slip down the aisle. I don't know why can't I abide the close quarters of a sleeping car on a train but had no problem with this little sardine can.

The last time I had ridden on one of these little planes was pre-9/11 by a few months. As our plane was trying to land, it suddenly pulled up and rushed back into the clouds. Apparently, there was already a plane on our runway and the pilot was loathe to rear-end it, thus the abrupt pull up. It was a horrifying experience and I didn't fly again for three more years. Then, when I did get on a plane again, I was terrified. I prayed during take-off, I prayed during the landing and I tried to pretend I was on a bus while we were airborn. I didn't look out the windows as I didn't want to kick my vertigo in on top of the claustrophobia I was keeping at bay with pure imagination. I would probably snap and go bat shit crazy if I actually tried to comprehend the reality of my situation.

Nowadays, frankly, I'm tired of being afraid to fly. As I sat in my seat and looked out the window, I tried to remember flying before I was afraid. I looked around and saw several hangars and lots of equipment. A small luggage cart drove by as well as a lavatory services truck. I felt relieved that I was sitting on the plane and not driving that vehicle. Relief being a new feeling on a plane as opposed to white-knuckled near-panic, I began to sense a change in the wind, as it were. I recalled one of my first voyages on an airplane as a child and remembered being thrilled and insatiably curious about what the ground would look like from that high up. I started to feel better about this flight.

The plane backed away from the gate and began to turn towards the runway. I looked over to the airport and I was struck by how Seventies the scene looked. There were lots of low buildings, where concrete and girders try to pass for design details. And everything was gritty. As I recall, during the 1970's everything had a layer of grit on it: the buildings, the streets, the people, the fashion, the TV shows (even children's television).

This realization caused me to slip back in time to my childhood. I remember going to the airport on Sunday afternoons with my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and cousins. I don't think we were picking anyone up or dropping anyone off. I think we just went to see the planes come and go. The Akron Canton Airport used to have an outdoor walkway where visitors could stand and watch the planes come and go.

Watching the planes was interesting for a few minutes, but I was much more fascinated by the inside of the terminal. There was a sawnky restaurant and bar that had dark wood paneling and puce carpet. One wall was all windows so that you could sip your Manhattan and watch the planes in smokey comfort. It was the height of seventies style.

There were several molded plastic chairs (very mod) nailed to the floors in rows in the waiting area of the airport that had small, 5-inch, black and white TV's attached to them. You just had to pay a small fee to watch, well, nothing really. It was a nice idea, but you really couldn't pull in any stations at the airport. It was an idea before its time. There was also a laminating machine, which captured my imagination. I had nothing to laminate, but I dreamed of the day that someday I would have something to laminate, by God, and I'd know right where to go.

With the rebirth of my curiousity around airplanes, airports and flying, I returned to the present with the resolve to try to enjoy the flight. As we took off from the runway, I forced myself to watch the land shrink away and become mosaic. I watched as the clouds came closer and obscured my view. I watched until it was just a pile of shaving cream out the window. I no longer felt the anxiety of being thousands of feet in the air, nor did I feel at all closed in. I also was satisfied to note that I was in the air, not on a bus and it was A-OK with me.

I was distracted from the window by one of my favorite things about flying: the safety demonstration disco. For some reason, I like watching this little ritual very much. Everytime I've seen it done, it's been done by some bored flight attendent. It's comforting, though, and it feels like a treat: not only do we get beverage service, but we also get a show! Satisfied with the performance of the dead calm attendent explaining what to do during a situation that ordinarily caused dead panic, and enjoying the irony; I turned to my book set in Bombay and happily waited to be offered a cold Diet Coke.

As we began to approach the DC area, I turned back to the window. I noticed a small mountain range that looked like green clay that had been spread out on a table and pinched up into small peaks down the middle. The closer we got to the city, the more interesting the landscape became. I saw the captiol building first, then the Washington Memorial, then the Jefferson Memorial. It's like flying into a movie or history. As we taxied around to the gate, that old seventies feeling returned. On the outside of the airport, the gritty equipment and archetecture, although differently done, strongly resembled the aesthetic of the Cleveland Airport.

We had a thrilling cab ride to our meeting and a thrilling cab ride back to the airport later. My Dad's words echoed in my ears. Yes, I'm more likely to bite it in this cab than up in that tiny jet plane. We left sunny DC for dark and stormy Cleveland another twenty minutes late. But I had nothing to worry me on the plane except for the rank smell of the lavatory and the drunk couple two rows in front of me.

But the flight was uneventful and I returned home to my family, Crave Case in hand. It was a peace offering to Doc, who had spent two extra long days with the girls this week and, I'm sure, was feeling weak. He did not like the idea of me getting on a plane and fretted until I came home. So I brought him this treat. I couldn't seem to convince him that I had a nice trip, though, and that flying was no big deal. He's not buying it. So much for growth, eh?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Love Christmas

I have been postponing my excitement for Christmas. Doc likes Christmas, but he likes it in its place (between December 15 and December 25, approximately). I'm ready to start the celebrations right around Thanksgiving weekend. But I've restrained myself. So, I've been a good girl, Santa. I haven't put the tree up. I've only recently begun playing Christmas music (last weekend). But I don't think I can contain myself much longer.

I haven't done any shopping yet, although I have picked out my Christmas cards. I haven't sent my cards, but I have watched Love Actually. I've decided against watching "It's a Wonderful Life" this year as I've enjoyed the abbreviated version of it several times already. But I am ready to bust out my Christmas music and deck the halls. Here are my top five favorite Christmas Albums:

1. Clay Aiken's Christmas
2. Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas
3. Elvis' Christmas
4. Nat King Cole's Christmas
5. Anything with acoustic guitars, mandolins, dulcimers

This is the first year that Riley has understood what Christmas is and has been able to say what she wants. This is what she says when you ask her what she wants for Christmas: "I want a light up, Fairytopia Barbie with Wings that flies around." It has been her mantra. It's really too cute.

She is also very excited about the snow. She loves to make snow angels. One morning after a particularly powerful snow storm, she came downstairs with me and gasped in wonder when she looked out the window, "It snowed, Momma!" I warmed to the weather instantly. Previously, I had been grumping around, dreading shovelling the drive and paying astronomical gas bills. But for now, I'm all about the snow.

Lucy is still kind of young to understand what's going on, but I'm sure she will be as delighted as I am to sit quietly on snowy evenings watching the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree. She's going to love her gifts once she figures out how to unwrap them.

I'm looking forward to having Christmas morning at my house, video taping the girls descending the stairs, rubbing their eyes and catching their breath when they see the pile of presents under the tree. I can't wait to have some mead or spiced wine while nibbling on rich Christmas treats (a perennial favorite: Hickory Farms beef stick diced and cooked up in sweet and sour sauce). I'm anticipating baking short bread cookies and gingerbread men.

It also looks as if we won't have to travel much this year either, another blessing. Last year, we were snowed in for the family party and ended up spending most of the holidays at my parents. It was nice, as always, but I'm really looking forward to spending Christmas at my first house for the first time (this is our third Christmas here).

Christmas is my Dad's favorite holiday and he and my Mom go totally overboard. I'm looking forward to being moved to tears by their love and generosity. I'm looking forward to them both weeping at the reactions to their gifts.

I'm going to have 12 days off around the holidays. I will get a chance to see Big Orange as he and his journey north. I'm looking forward to a Lodge meeting on New Year's Eve, where we will watch the debut of Ryan Seacrest as the host of New Year's Rockin' Eve. I'm looking forward to seeing my sister-in-law when she brings her kids up so they can see the pounds of snow and have a chance to frolic in it.

I know I'm blessed and lucky. Maybe that's why I can afford to be chipper this time of year. Hopefully, we will get to go to church for a Christmas Eve service and give thanks properly. I also plan on donating some to an interesting charity: Christians for Peace who take the advice of Jesus in the book of Matthew pretty seriously...

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-44), to forgive those who sin against us (Matt 18:21-22), and to deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow him. (Matt 10:37-38). Jesus' teachings and His life example are so clear that they need no commentary. To follow Jesus is to follow a path of servanthood, rather than domination.

I wish all of you the best and I hope you find joy in this season. Just remember...

Christmas Is All Around
I feel it in my fingers,
I feel it in my toes,
Christmas is all around me,
and so the feeling grows

It's written in the wind,
It's everywhere I go,
So if you really love Christmas,
C'mon and let it snow

You know I love Christmas
I always will
My mind's made up
The way that I feel
There's no beginning
There'll be no end
Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

You gave your presents to me
And I gave mine to you
I need Santa beside me
In everything I do

You know I love Christmas
I always will
My mind's made up
The way that I feel
There's no beginning
There'll be no end
Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

It's written on the wind
It's everywhere I go
So if you really love me
C'mon and let it show
C'mon and let it show
So if you really love
C'mon and let it
If you really love me
C'mon and let it
Now if you really love me
C'mon and let it show

Billy Mack