I’m trying to remember whether air travel was ever fun. I do recall a trip to somewhere when our oldest child was about a year old. She was happy and curious and given to peering over the tops of our shoulders at the passengers behind us.
Maybe the woman behind us asked if she could hold our little girl, and, well, why not? We passed her over the top. That initiated quite a pass-around session in which she spent a fair bit of time doing up-and-overs from one row of seats to another.
This was in TBC, of course. "Time Before COVID." That was way back when you could actually see the smiles on people’s faces and when airline passengers weren’t concerned about inhaling microscopic particles that could kill you.
I think we were flying to someplace warm and semi-exotic on that trip, so lots of the passengers were in good moods and happy to play pass-the-baby.
Now, the baby is 37. She and her husband have a fresh offspring of their own over in Scotland, so we hopped three planes to go visit them not long ago.
Flying is fun and romantic and almost exotic — and then you board the plane. You duck through the doorway, squinching your shoulders and shuffling your feet as you inch down the aisle looking for 37B and C.
For some reason, this always reminds me a bit of Herefords reluctantly ascending a ramp into a well-ventilated semitrailer back in Kansas. Next stop, the Kansas City stockyards. Final destination — a beef-packing plant. While our flying fate is nothing like that of the cattle, I can’t shake the memory.
We find 37B and C and I begin wedging my 32-inch inseams under the seat of 36B ahead of me. I briefly consider unhooking my legs at the hips, folding thighs to calves and placing them in the overhead compartment, being careful to latch the cover so contents do not fall out during flight. No flight attendant wants to deal with that.
“Sir? Are these your legs?”
“Yeah. Sorry. Could you just put them back up there? Thanks.”
I try to imagine taking a seat anywhere in my own home, even in something resembling first class (not that I would know what it’s like to travel first class), and sitting there for eight hours. But we can do it on an airplane because we must, and because the reward at the other end — being with our first grandchild — is such a powerful draw.
The first four or five hours pass as we fly into the night. I read. I try not to punch up the video screen on the seatback ahead of me that shows the plane’s in-flight progress.
Somewhere toward the end of the flight, the twitchies set in. You know the twitchies — where your legs begin to remember movement. They want to get up and race up and down the aisle. They beg you to stand upright and maybe hang a heel on another passenger’s backrest and do some hurdler stretches in the aisle. Somehow, I resist.
All of these seemingly significant issues recede quickly when, after a few days of social distancing in Edinburgh, my daughter places that 7-pound bundle of new life in my arms.
And my heart takes flight.