Flying back to Florida on Airtran last week after meeting with my artist’s for the comic, a women and her daughter sat in the seats in front of me.  I heard from their conversation that this was her daughter’s first airplane flight.  Her mother repeated twice, “You ready, we’re going to go really high and really fast above the clouds.  Get ready.”  The flight attendant stood next to the bulkhead during boarding and explained what model of airplane she would be flying to the girl, and that it was very full.  “Not a seat empty, and that there are even more people than seats, because we have seven babies onboard too.”  A curious fact to share I thought.

As we taxied to the runway I overheard the mother and daughter’s conversation.

Mother: “Ok, are you ready?  We’re going to the runway now.  Do you want to hold my hand?”

Daughter: “No.”

Mother:  “Are you afraid?”

Daughter; “No.”

Mother: “Are you sure you don’t want to hold my hand, we’re about to go really fast and its going to be kinda scary at first.  Are you ok?”

Daughter: “Yes Mommy.”

Mother:  “Ok honey here we go…hold on.”

As the Boeing rotated the three children seated near me all simultaneously rang chorus’s of, “Cool!” and “Wow!”

Daughter:  “Mommy look, there’s our house!”

Mother: “Silly that’s not our house, we don’t live near the airport.”

Daughter: “Mommy look that cloud looks like a dog.  That one’s a tree.  Look!  That one looks like Steve!”

Mother: laughing, “Steve?  Clouds can’t look like Steve baby.”

Two chimes on the PA from the cockpit sounded on our climb out as I watch the flight attendant pick-up the intercom and speak to the pilots.  She then made a PA telling us the Captain said,  “we’re about to be going through some weather, please remain seated with your seat belts securely fastened.”  As our plane start’s to pick through the towering cumulonimbus clouds we hit the first downdraft, “bump.”

Daughter: laughing “WHEW!”

Mother: “Sit back honey, hold my hand.”

Second downdraft.

Daughter:  “Cooool! I floated Mommy”

Mother: “I mean it, sit back. Let me tighten your seatbelt.”

Mozart condemnedThe little girl didn’t say a word after that.  She pressed her face against the window and watched silently as dogs, and trees, and Steve moved through her vision.  All growing and dissolving through sun and shadows until we rose above the sheared off cloud tops into the cerulean sky.

Towards the end of the flight I went to stand next to the galley bulkhead and flipped through my iPhone pictures.  Finding a beautiful picture of the little girl I spoke to her mother and said, “I was really happy to have been sitting behind you, to be part of your daughter’s first flight.”  I showed the mother her daughter’s picture, and offered to email it to her, or text it, if she would give me her contact.  She looked at me cautiously, her face thinking aloud if I was trustworthy to give out her cell number to, and guardedly replied, “oh, ok.”  Two more chimes, then the PA announced, “The Captain asks that you return to your seats and fasten your seat belts in preparation for landing.”

The mother left without asking for the pictures, or even looking one row back at me standing right next to her left shoulder.

Walking to the parking garage I thought of  St Exupery on the train in Wind, Sand, and Stars, and that “this little Mozart is condemned.”  This “miracle of delight and grace” in the seat in front of me, was systematically being taught to be afraid of everything and everyone by her mother, and perhaps her father too.  I wondered how long it would be until she started to believe that clouds could not possibly look like Steve, and that storms were something to buckle yourself up against, instead of delighting in their wonder and power.  My consolation was when her mother stood up to get their bag from the overhead I leaned forward and said to the face in the window, “I thought that cloud looked like Steve too!”  The little girl pivoted in her seat surprised and just smiled, her nose wrinkling up.  She got up when called by her mother and peeked at me between the seats, and smiled again. This time it was a really great big smile.  Remembering that smile, while trying to remember which parking level I was on in Orlando, I thought maybe not Mozart murdered St Ex…maybe not this one.

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