Sunday, 26 August 2012

Flying high

The first time I took a plane ride I was 9. It was an Ansett flight and my grandparents dropped the 5 of us at Brisbane Domestic Airport. I remember strapping into the funny seatbelts and the roar of the engines. I remember my Dad explaining the clunk that was the landing gear lifting into the belly of the plane and I remember the airline food with the alfoil lids that you peeled back. My sister and brother got "kids packs" of food that had icecream and SPC two fruits but I got the congealed chicken and I remember being disappointed but trying not to show it. I remember the funny head phones that were really tubes, like a stethoscope. The amazing sense of adventure. Of doing something so outside our experience.

It was a big deal that we were even on that flight. Or the two that came after it in quick succession. No one else in my school had been on a plane before. It was a luxury - a massive and expensive one that my Mum had saved up for because she wanted to travel and she wanted us to love it as much as she did. But we were fortunate, something that I think I realised even then. Our car had airconditioning, a rarity at the time that was the envy of friends, even if we were only allowed to have it on on the hottest days. Opened windows good enough the rest of the time.

But that first holiday on a plane was exciting and wonderful if only for the plane itself. In the years that came after it as we travelled far and wide, the taxiing onto the runway and the initial burst as the jet engines fired up has always sucked me in to that same excited 9 year old, wondering at the magic of being in a plane. Of going somewhere. That potential and possibility.

I leaned back this afternoon into the leather seat and picked up my magazine. I didn't realise we were taxiing until I heard the rumble of the jet turbines as we were pressed back into the seats. The familiar sight of the slightly extended flaps as we tore down the runway. The belly lurching moment of liftoff, of pure elevation and weightlessness if only for a second and the awe in being able to do that. The pure magic of it all. And then, the crunch, as the landing gear lifts, and curls up under the belly, an aluminium bird in flight.

It's been more than 20 years since that first flight, and this one wasn't to go on a holiday. Or somewhere new or different. And it hurt to leave, and to get on the plane. Not as much as last time, but it still did. To get off the plane in the humid dark and walk across the tarmac to my car and drive home through the wide streets. No holiday to look forward to. No new place to explore. Just work and a pile of sheets that need to be washed.

But there is a part of me, that watched the red sun shining above the cloud cities, and just for a moment became that 9 year old again. Wishing and wondering. Peeling the foil off my crackers and cheese with my headphones in my ears. Travelling off into the sunset, the world slipping by underneath and the possibility of it all struck me. The adventure.

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