Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flight of Adolescence

My baby got on a jet plane all by herself today and flew away. Away up in the sky. Alone. That's like, without me, or Paul.

She's 9 (nine). And this pin was the only thing that yelled out to the world that she needed to be taken care of. Because she seems all of 19 to me. Except the part about where I have to tell her to hang up her wet bathing suit. And also how to be nice.

But she's headed to the border of Canada to learn how to become more of a strong spirited woman. Not sure we really want more of this strong spirited thing, but as long as she comes home with a greater sense of who she is, then all will be well.

We got new gear. We got iron-on labels. We got a new headlamp. New dry bag. New sleeping bag. New dop kit. New travel size hair brush, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, tissues. Yup.

And still, the ripped Converse made it in.

We woke up in the dark and pulled quietly away from a sleeping house. We talked about who she might meet, what she might do. We bought candy at the Gulf station. She ate half of it before we made it to the United desk. We made it through security. We waited to board. I gave her away.

She sat next to a man named Stan. He was very nice. I later noticed that he had a very big nose. I only noticed this because everyone had to get off the plane. They were on "hold". Everything in and out of Chicago was on stand still.

We sat and waited patiently. She ate the rest of her candy. It was 7 a.m.

At 8 a.m. this woman had to tell all the people on the plane that their lives would be wrecked, ruined, destroyed for that one day. The flight was canceled. But she didn't know the disappointment that my daughter would feel.

They turn you away and say there is nothing we can do. But camp is waiting, we say. I'm sorry they say, there is nothing available out of Burlington for two days. Two days?? we say. Yes, but you can drive to Manchester, N.H. and leave tomorrow. But camp is waiting, we say. I'm sorry they say. But they're not. You can tell.

And so we go home. And make plans. And find alternative places for boys who would not like this adventure (thanks Spin!). And we drive 2.5 hours south to an empty, vacant house stuffed with a month's worth of stale air. The house I grew up in. We throw open the windows, pop a bag of popcorn, watch an instant movie, turn on the fan, and fall asleep on a bed without sheets. I wake at 3. It's time to send her away. Again.

We drive 20 minutes to Manchester. Buy 2 maple frosted donuts. Drive over a curb. Buy more candy. Half of it's gone by 6. Wait for more paperwork.

Please would all unaccompanied minors board the aircraft at this time. She is first. I am not ready. I don't even have my camera. Bye Mom. Bye Mom? She jumps up and goes. Ready yesterday. Even the day before yesterday. I am not ready yet. I am not ready for you to be okay without me. I am not ready for you to fly. But she goes.

I leave without her. The windows down. The sun is rising. It is starting to sprinkle. I look around the car and realize that she's left something behind.

Her childhood.


  1. So glad she made it! Great account of the weekend and this major milestone...brought a tear to my eye.

    Hang in there Mama, she'll be fine and home before you know it :)

    - Susie

  2. ohh...I wish we could have it both ways! beautifully written, though thinking of it, even I can't breathe.

  3. Tears....You are a brave woman and so is your daughter. Way to make it work!!! I e-mailed her this AM so hopefully she'll get it. XOXO

  4. hope the family of 4 is surviving. i'm sure the boys of 2 are, i'm just not convinced about their mother.

    my first plane trip was about that same age, sans parents, but with younger sister. we got cool TWA pins to wear, and that's about all i remember - i definitely don't remember so much candy. we had a great trip to the deep south of Lumberton NC (aunt & uncle). my younger brother stayed w/ gramma (i forget where my parents escaped to), but brother & gramma lived thru Hurricane Belle that week. this was memorable because Belle rescued timmy's favorite little wooden bear, whom had been launched high up into a tree on a previous day's adventure. My mom wrote & illustrated a book about it -> "Hurricane Bear". but you've never heard of it. we received the only edition.

    thank you for publishing your edition for more of us to see.

  5. btw - i forgot to mention that it appears your 'strong spirited' spawna is flippin you da bird in that tag shot.