A LAST SCARY AIRPORT, MARY’S CLIMB

 

A LAST SCARY AIRPORT

April 11, 2014

Family Mom flies 65_5Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 7.56.00 PM

After the Solo Flight!

Mary is not afraid of flying and that is a good thing. As she concludes her mountain climbing in the Himalayas she still has one more ‘known to be risky’ aspect of the grand adventure; flying back to Kathmundu from Lukla airport, listed among the ten most dangerous airports in the world. Lying at the foot of huge mountains, its reputation is well earned with its stunningly formidable approaches and the changeable wind and weather that is always capriciously swirling through the deep canyons that border the airstrip. Flying is my husband’s greatest love in this life, exceeded only by his devotion to his family. Seeing his passion as a young wife, I took up flying to be his companion. Little did I know I would come to love it as much as he. As a mother of three young children, time was as scarce as money then, but flying is a quick sport, one could be at the airport and aloft, literally above it all and back home in an hour. Instant perspective! This became my escape from household chaos when we purchased part interest in a little broad winged, 65 horsepower, vintage Taylorcraft. A perfect balance for my life ‘on earth’. Mary’s ease with flying came naturally, you can even say prenatally. I soloed when I was five months pregnant with her and her twin sister, Vivian, who both became lively adventuresome girls and awesome athletes. The long faced, dour flying instructor I had, certainly unaware of my gravid condition, unexpectedly got out the plane after I had made some nice landings, and shortly after I had painstakingly recorded my fourteen hours of dual instruction into my log book. I sat somewhat stunned at his abrupt exit, glancing at the right seat grown huge and formidable with emptiness, a spot usually emanating with his gravelly voice droning instructions. No one there. But then I pushed the throttle forward and took off for two more landings alone. The plane was lighter by 190 pounds and lifted off like a joyful bird and my soul with it. What a thrill it was to be in command of my own flying machine powering it skyward to soar, bank and turn and survey, from that lofty vantage point, all things earthbound below! In truth I was not solo but accompanied by my daughter’s spirits there in tiny forms snuggled in the womb. They, too, must have exulted in their mother’s thrill of freedom and independence. Hardly an activity I recommend to expectant mothers now but it filled a big place in my life then. The birth of twins, making five children in five years for us, certainly clipped my wings and I didn’t attempt more flying until they were two. Then I took it up again and they were my first passengers when I was licensed, along with my proud father. They took it all in stride as did our oldest daughter, Lauren. Fishing for acknowledgment with some somewhat forgivable pride, I asked her if she had shared at school that her mommy just got a pilot’s license. She shrugged with indifference and laconically replied, “No, it wasn’t sharing day.” Once when the twins were eight we were driving back from my parents wonderful mountain home and I was with them in the back seat. Those were the pre-seat belt days, and I had my arms, like a mother hen’s sheltering wings, around my two girls snuggled cosily to my sides. As we drove a stretch of mountain highway, I was suddenly washed with a wave of utterly fulfilled contentment. I looked out at the mountains on the far horizon, soft violet in the fading day, and I remember my thoughts as clear as yesterday. “I shall guide and accompany these girls to the top of those mountains, but that will be as far as I go. They will go beyond on their own, on to valleys and other mountains and other lands and adventures that I cannot even imagine and will not be mine to know. They shall forge their destinies and ascend mountains I have never dreamed of, live experiences and accomplishments uniquely and wonderfully their own.” It has come to pass, our courageous Mary (and Vivian who has also climbed Kilimanjaro) have done just that.

 

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