Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Wright Stuff

This summer my son will cover thousands of miles without setting foot on the ground. He’ll visit family in California with his father and in England with me on trips that will take him roughly halfway around the world.

My head has been in the clouds since I took him to the airport for the first leg of his journey this morning. I am waiting like any/every mother to hear that he has arrived safely.

I am of two minds about all this air travel. Part of me bemoans the fact that our modern way of life has scattered families to the four winds. The other part of me acknowledges that without air travel, at least in my case, there would be no family to scatter.

My American father met my English mother at a party in London. Without air travel, their meeting and subsequent decision to marry would have been unlikely, at best.

I owe my very existence to air travel. Without it, my life melts away like clouds; like in the movie Back to the Future, where the children fade from the family photo as the parents bungle their initial encounter. No meeting of my parents = no me. No me = no son to fly between two families who would be unconnected by blood or marriage without us.

This thought hit me like a first-model flying machine in freefall when we took a family vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina a couple of years ago. Here, at Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers made the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight on Dec. 17, 1903.

Not much more than a century later, air travel is a well-established means of transportation. I have taken it for granted my whole life, and today I saw my son doing the same.

Standing on the sandy strip at the foot of the hill from which Orville and Wilbur Wright pushed off time and time again, determined to conquer the air, I found myself in tears.

I cried for the enormity of their accomplishment; for its unquestionable impact on my own life and on life in general. And I cried for its relentless inevitability.

Progress runs out to meet us on winged feet like Nike, the goddess of victory. And the past, that lovely, distant country, recedes before our eyes and is gone.

The phone rings. My son has landed.

No comments:

Post a Comment