When my friends played Barbie, I played flight attendant. On a flight to Florida I found, in my young flyer activity pack, a shiny gold pair of Delta wings. It was as if I had been handed a magic superhero cape, assigned as an apprentice to the brave cabin crew. Certain that I had been singled out from all other able bodied eight year old passengers , and would be called upon to help should an emergency arise, I dutifully studied the evacuation procedures in my seat pocket, and wore my wings on every flight thereafter, until the back fell away and the gold shine fell flat. From then on flying outfits were carefully considered, so as to be flight crew appropriate; always a skirt, best to have a short jacket, for showcasing the wings, and if possible, a coordinating beret. The Pucci designed Braniff uniforms directed my young fashion sense; at ten I ached for turquoise pumps.
My grandparents took me to Europe when I was twelve, first to Vienna followed by a cruise down the Danube, through Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Russia and finally Turkey. From the roof of our hotel, Istanbul at night was, and remains now, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. My grandmother took me on an Istanbul city bus, my father on the Mexico City subway, all so very far away from my suburban childhood, and all preparing me for the requisite six week post college Eurail-facilitated sojourn, with not one sense of where I was going. Occasionally lost, and eventually found, I discovered that German food was not my favorite, beaches in Italy are beautiful, and England really did feel like home.
Our first trip together, for many couples a quick weekend excursion, was a hastily planned, and then executed, trip to Italy. Decided upon after finding flights to Rome less expensive than to Denver, our intended destination, my future husband and I took off without one reservation. There was no itinerary, nothing beyond landing in Rome, and leaving from the same spot 12 days later. He was new to this kind of travel, having never before left the states; an emergency passport, one worn copy of Rick Steve’s guide to Italy, and we were as prepared as we wanted to be. Traveling is an interesting way to get to know someone, traveling sans itinerary in a country where your combined knowledge of the language amounts to buon natale, pesto and Prosecco, is an entirely different definition of getting to know you. In ten days we knew, not how the other squeezed the toothpaste, but more importantly, that traveling was something we could do together forever.
We got married. We amassed frequent flyer miles and spent long romantic dinners planning our next adventure. We went to England, Ireland and Mexico. He got a taste for adventure, I got pregnant. Nine months later there were two babies; we sent American Airlines a birth announcement and waited for their Advantage numbers to arrive in the mail.
Their first flight was at three weeks. Bundled and carried, they slept the entire time. After that, flying was easy. Dallas, Boston, Phoenix, Ireland, Philadelphia, Denver, Puerto Vallarta, for two years, two glorious years, we flew wherever we wanted, with little effort and little discomfort. And then it happened, vomit. Once, twice, three times, every time; one of our frequent flyers had developed a horrid aversion to air travel.
Three years ago we went on hiatus, our flying days over until someone either outgrew this affliction or grew old enough to be heavily medicated for the entire flight. We began searching for getaway options within two hours, by car, from Chicago. For a brief time I explored the idea of moving the entire family to Boston, or London; so much more to see, I believed, in our two hour road window. My husband, with an office in downtown Chicago, protested. Nearby vacation choices were limited; we considered Wisconsin, dismissed Indiana and settled on Michigan.
From the front porch of our small town Michigan beach rental I see kites flying overhead, the nearest airport being over one hour away. My urban children, at home restricted to supervised play at the neighborhood park, are free to run from one end of the yard, around the cottage and back, shrieking wildly as they chase each other through the sprinkler. They kick balls, play hopscotch and lay in the grass creating animals and shapes from the infrequent clouds that float lazily by. We eat fresh blueberry ice cream (not a scoop of gelato to be found in the three block downtown area), grill hamburgers and savor the corn bought on Wednesday morning from the small farmer’s market. We trade in the city bus that takes us about our neighborhood for two wheels, bicycles being the only form of transportation required. Fireflies, s’mores and sand pails define our holiday; passports and guidebooks are left at home.