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Give Me Wings
by Amy Kenneley

They say travel is broadening---would someone please tell the airlines that?

Hefting my soft travel bag as I walk down the inclined ramp onto the plane, I am already dreading the approaching "airplane crouch" I must go through to get into my seat. And broad is not the word I would choose. The bag that had seemed so easy to carry when I began my trip, now tugs at my arm sockets.

Well, for every trip, a souvenir---and with a few grandsons waiting to see if grandma remembered them, the bag has gained some weight on my return flight. I had succumbed to the airline blackmail for better seats and upgraded at the check in desk. This would put me ahead of the other travelers who might knock this old lady aside as they are rushing down the ramp.

I am a windows person, so the upgrade paid off. I found the perfect window spot, far enough behind the wings for a grand view of the world that would be passing beneath me. The woman in front of me is already chattering before the engines turn over. I am thinking an uncharitable thought, when apparently, from my lips to……well, the engines started up and her litany of health issues was drowned out.

There is a certain unspoken protocol when flying. The chance phrase offered when seated or positioning luggage can turn into a pleasant conversation or end in studious silence. For most, a few pleasantries suffice. Avoiding eye contact works for most travelers. Staring is frowned on. With children, of course, all protocol disappears.

The flight attendant demonstrates how to blow into the life vest and how to position the oxygen mask. I feel I should look at him and feign interest in this mandatory little mime, since no one else is. I remember another flight when I was seated in the emergency EXIT row. The attendant asked , "Are you prepared and capable to accept responsibility for opening the door in case of emergency?"

Noting his appraisal of my gray hair and flabby physique, I assured him I was. Mentally I thought, "Heck yes! I'll be the first one out of this buggy if there's trouble!"

Clouds From Both Sides Now

The young man next to me sticks some ear buds in his ears and is soon lost in music, eyes closed. I open my "airplane book" a paperback that is only mildly interesting and can be put aside easily to admire the passing clouds and earth.

It is a short flight of a little more than an hour. I try to figure out what geography we are flying over, but cannot. There are brown fields not yet planted in crops, trees starting to leaf making spring green swirls around black winding roads. Houses become little flecks of white and red and yellow. Soon, we are into clouds and I must content myself with the airplane book.

Perhaps I have been spoiled by riding buses on tours where everything is pointed out: " and on your left, you will notice the unusual house that was, it is said, owned by the notorious..."

I wish there were such a person on board, a knowledgeable person who could say, "----see that river below winding to south west? That is the Ohio River, and we are just now passing the last of the Appalachian chain. To the right is the city of…." and so on. America flows on below me, and like the land of counterpane, I would very much like to identify which patch of America I am looking at, even though it seems no longer of interest to most folks.

Returning

I can feel my ears pop. Then the pilot announces we are making our descent and will be landing in a few minutes. Suddenly we are no longer in the clouds. The plane tilts in a slow and easy turn. First it skims the suburbs, and baseball fields and then highways.

We are over the Lake now, and make a sharp bank to the left. I see the stacks of the power plant, the winding green road of Rockefeller Park, the Shoreway busy with cars and trucks. And now below me I can see the Terminal Tower, my beacon of reckoning within the busy skyline. The Cuyahoga twists and turns around Irishtown Bend.

Maybe, for this leg of my journey, a tourist guide isn't needed. Even from the air, all looks familiar. The young man beside me has straightened himself and leans over to speak for the first time. "What's down there?"

I answer, "Home."





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