Plinky Prompt: Traveling

The final TWA logo

The final TWA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home. Down Under.
    • Up, Up And Away….
    • Being the daughter of an airline employee we flew often and for free. We were young and of course, we didn’t appreciate flying to other countries. We went to see Oma and Opa in Vienna, Austria or our (wicked) step-grandmother in Israel. Didn’t everybody visit their grandparents during Spring break?
      Airline employees lived a different life, we flew stand-by, so we never knew if we would get on a flight until the very last moment. My father would cross his arms into a triangle and we knew that was the meaning for “a cliff hanger” or a very close call, a “a very flight.” We had been thrown off planes or “bumped” before.
      My father worked for TWA and his best friend for Pan Am, and the rivalry was fun and real. We flew to France, Israel, the former Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Germany, Rome, Italy, an island off of Greece, a fishing village in Portugal.
      Years later, when I met my husband, we traveled too, some on frequent flyer miles to Hawaii and to Australia, and later on to France for our miserable, cold and rainy honeymoon.
      We were so lucky, as children, to have had those experiences in the days when flying was actually fun.
      Now, flying is a brutal experience, if we have to fly, we go. But, it is not like the old days where you would get excited to fly and look forward to the trip. In the old days, my sister and I HAD to wear matching sweater and skirt sets. I remember the buttons on them were like ceramic balls. The suits were identical, except for the color. We were NEVER allowed to wear anything less fancy, it just wasn’t done. Back then, you also got dressed up to go to the theater.
      We appreciated the traveling we did back when we were children and teenagers, because once we were 21 and the free tickets abruptly stopped, we missed them even more.

    11fp - Trans World Airlines Boeing 727-231; N8...

    11fp – Trans World Airlines Boeing 727-231; N84357@FLL;30.01.1998 (Photo credit: Aero Icarus)

     

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Carry on Tuesday: Rain, rain, go away

Storm Clouds

Storm Clouds (Photo credit: freefotouk)

Scott and Sarah were days away from their honeymoon, excited to be going to Paris, France after their  sunny and warm wedding reception in Boston, MA. They couldn’t think of a more romantic place to go than Paris. To be in love and to be in Paris, enchanting and delightful, they imagined long walks, holding hands on the small, cobbled streets and kissing furtively behind hidden doorways. They couldn’t wait for the chocolate croissants, standing in the sunshine,  many cups of lush, thick coffee with cream, a different apple or pear pastry for every meal…..the intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread wafting on the side streets.

They arrived two days after their wedding reception, having spent one night in a luxurious room overlooking the Boston Harbor, a gift from their friends. They had been driven there from the reception, Sarah, still in her wedding dress and white sneakers, Scott in his immaculate dark blue suit and maroon tie. Sarah refused to change into another dress, it was her wedding after all and she delighted in seeing other people point at her and gasp: “a bride!” When little girls with pigtails looked at her in awe she smiled and waved at them. Watching a bride, when she was a girl, was always magical.

Their plane left in the evening and they flew on TWA straight to Paris. They arrived, excited, happy, in love, dreams dancing in their eyes. The weather the first day was colder than they thought it would be. Sarah, secretly thanked her mother who had insisted she bring a raincoat in her luggage.

The sky was gray and dark, winds were chilly and it rained within the hour. They made their way to their tiny hotel, dragging their suitcases through city streets until they finally reached their destination. Sarah was not happy about that, there were no rolling suitcases back then and she was tired, cranky and hungry and just wanted to close her eyes. Scott refused to take a taxi, absolutely refused, Sarah was furious and thus their honeymoon started.

Every day of their vacation in France was cold and it rained every single day. “Rain, rain, go away” Sarah sang out loud but she only got angrier when the rain did not let up. To try to get away from the weather they decided to rent a car and head South, they would salvage their honeymoon. However, wherever they went, the rain followed, the winds blew freezing air and the skies were dark gray.

Sarah was there over her birthday and they had eaten lunch in a rest stop on a toll road. They both ate chicken with rice pilaf. It tasted fine, but within an hour, Sarah was throwing up violently, over and over again. It was the worst case of food poisoning she had ever had. “Happy Birthday, ME” she muttered to herself, swishing her mouth out with Coke. They cautiously drove to a quaint, old town in the country where they stayed in a beautiful, old castle. From the outside it looked like a movie set but once inside it was eery and dark. There was no light in the hallways and in their room except for one hanging bulb, swinging from a thin rope.

They called it “the honeymoon from hell”, they couldn’t wait to get back to the US and their apartment. It was the worst vacation they had ever taken. Once home, Sarah, who had packed only one warm, black sweater as an after thought, ended up wearing it every day for two solid weeks. The first time they lit a fire in their fireplace, she tossed the black sweater in the fireplace, along with their memories and happily watched them burn up in flames.

*I Was An Airline Brat

The final TWA logo

Image via Wikipedia

There was a very good article in “The New York Times”

Whatever Happened to First Class?

By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: February 10, 2012

that I really liked and I wanted to share my own memories since I started flying when I was nine months old and stopped abruptly when my free airline tickets, from my dad, who worked for TWA, stopped at my ripe, young age of twenty-one. Or at least not yet twenty-two.

Flying was my dad’s dream, and no, he was not a pilot even though in his heart he thought he was. He worked in offices and volunteered extra shifts if there was an accident and flew to St. Louis to buy fresh milk for my older sister when there was a milk strike in NY. He loved everything about flying and traveling with our mother and when we were children we came along, almost always. A visit to Grandma’s house for us was to fly to Vienna, Austria or Tel-Aviv, Israel. I thought nothing of it as a child, it’s what we did; my older sister and I did have to get dressed up in a matching sweater and skirt sets, identical (except for color and size.) We were not allowed to wear pants, God forbid jeans. We had to dress up formally before each flight, our dad’s rule because we were flying “subject to space” which meant we would try for a flight but since we were “non-revs” (non-revenue passengers) we never knew when we would be able to get  on a particular flight, looking good wasn’t optional in our house. We had no choice. In fact, back then, everyone dressed up for a flight, there were no jeans or sweat pants….they didn’t exist.

If the flight was fully booked our dad would make the shape of a hanger with his hands and shake his head dejectedly. We knew that meant “a cliff-hanger” fully booked, not a great chance of getting on but we would go anyway. There were times we were already seated and buckled in and the door closed when in dreadful embarrassment they called our names over the intercom and we had to unbuckle, get up, gather our bags and belongings and march or rather limp off the plane if paying passengers had arrived. Mortifying.

We may have complained about getting up at four in the morning to go to Phoenix, AZ. but once we were on the flight, our vacation had started. Flying was part of the vacation not like now where it is something to live through with great dread and anticipation. Was there a difference in first-class and economy? Sure, but either was fine. We always went economy (and we could stretch across 3-4 seats back then) until one day I think we begged our dad to try first class, it was a matter of twelve or eight dollars per person. It was hard to go back to economy after that.

First class had luscious, huge seats, especially for young adults, a printed menu with delicacies to choose from. I’m drooling just remembering them. Beef Wellington?Steak? Salmon? Really, really good, gourmet food. I remember one of the desserts, it was the ice-cream sundae cart approaching me. I saw mountains of vanilla ice cream come headed towards me. Near it was a huge silver bowl filled with whipped cream, hot fudge sauce, sprinkles and many other condiments. “Make your own sundae” in the best of times was good, but while flying through clouds? Heavenly.

I’d like to add to Mr. McKinley’s post that my ideal flight was boarding the TWA 747 that had a winding staircase to the lounge upstairs with comfortable soft and wide chairs and private window seats. I remember reading a book up there and feeling like hot, um, bananas!  That same trip, before landing, they served a snack before landing; it was the biggest, hero sandwich, I had ever seen, filled with possibly every kind of meat and cheese that existed. The enormity still bogs my mind. There were drinks or soda, snacks. How could flying NOT be part of the vacation, it was the greatest in relaxation; no one could reach you and why would anyone want to stay in touch on vacation? If you had told people back then that it would be a posdibilityin the future,they would have called security at the very least.

I don’t know when it started but slowly the airline industry disintegrated. There was no more food (gasp) you had to pay separately for everything, even bags and suitcases. People didn’t treat you like royalty anymore. After 9/11 the whole world changed and it will never be the same again. Some people refused to fly after that forever. I wasn’t thrilled with the aspect of flying but I flew many times. It became a horribly, long, painful process. I am personally grateful for the TSA agents that check and recheck but it is hard work for them. Nobody seems to appreciate what they are doing all day long or at night. Not fun for us either but still…

I will probably fly again at some point but it isn’t something that I look forward to doing. The point of relaxation does not begin at the airport but probably a day after you have reached your destination. Is it worth it? I’ve always thought it was but as time goes on I think more about it. I was so very lucky to see so many countries when I was a kid, I know I didn’t appreciate it then. It will never be the same and that is one dreadful loss. I’m glad my dad is no longer on this earth to witness travel the way it is now, he would be horrified, as those of us who remember “the good old days” are.

* a few sentences were used in the comment section for the NYT on Mr. McKinley’s wonderful article.

On Public Speaking

Sweet

Image by dyobmit via Flickr

Mr. Bluestone’s Class, seventh grade

The first time I had to speak publicly was in seventh grade in front of my science teacher, Mr. Bluestone and the class. I remember I did it on the TWA 747 and I practiced for hours and hours, for days, weeks. My dad, who worked at TWA at the time, brought home a 747 model jet for me to use. I practiced my speech on my dad endlessly and he was patient and kind.

I remember being in the class, Mr. Bluestone first asked for volunteers and he said, if no one wanted to volunteer he would just pick randomly. The classroom was absolutely quiet, albeit the sound of us all breathing nervously.

All of a sudden, my hand shot up and I decided to volunteer and “get it over with” basically my philosophy in life now as a grown-up.

I went to the front of the class and to the podium, I had practiced so much that the information was like that of a soothing lullaby sung by a mother to her newborn. I finished my presentation, showed my TWA model and finished speaking. There was silence in the room until Mr. Bluestone stood up and said to the class:” well, well, well.” Now, I was frightened. He continued to say that “by being first I had set the bar really high and that other presentations would be compared to mine.” I got an A plus and it gave me the confidence throughout my life to know I can do it; know your material really, really well, find your confidence and strength and speak. Jump at the chance to go first,  you can do it and you can do it really, really well.

Dedicated to Mr. Stuart or Stewart Bluestone, wherever you are.

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Please, Mama

c. 1901

Image via Wikipedia

Don’t give up the fight, Mama. It’s okay to feel anxious but please don’t give up; don’t fall into the rapid hole of deterioration like a black funnel cloud gaining speed. What can I do to keep you from slipping? I will hold your soft downy hands with all of my strength so you don’t go anywhere and you have no choice but to stand up like a strong, red oak tree. I will not let you down; I promise. Have a little faith, accept the bad things that have happened and move past it.

Dad gave up but he had no interest in living anymore because he was so depressed. Do you remember? The light in his blue-gray eyes had been extinguished two years before. He was not the same dad that brought us up, the joking, warm, TWA company guy that took us to eat in the airline terminal. He was not the same husband that protected you and took care of you and adored you and your less than stellar cooking attempts.  You “cooked” mashed potatoes out of dehydrated flakes that you poured into a pot and heated with tepid water or with milk. Dad made his own concoctions for dessert: red, strawberry, glistening, jello mixed with canned fruit cocktail and yogurt. To top it off he added applesauce and rainbow sprinkles. He said you were his favorite cook bar none. No restaurant compared to your cooking; that was real love.

He became an old man who had difficulty walking, he shuffled and it was heart-breaking to watch. I was fearful anytime he walked up or down my three front steps that he would fall over. He refused to use a cane, or a walker, his vanity meant more than everything else. At least he had his dignity to the very end. I was lucky to see him when he was still fighting. I was there when the Doctor asked him if he would be “amenable to training so he could use a walker.” He looked up at her and said “NO, Doctor, I am not amenable to that at all!” I remember he wore his white down jacket with the bright red lining inside. I wore that puffy jacket for months after he died. I wear the chain he always wore for luck. I lost daddy years before he died, we all did.

I pray that you will bounce back, mom, and that the pain of the last six months will dissipate forever. You have fallen twice in a short period of time, you broke your wrist and your vertebrae and now we just want to keep your bones strong by taking the drug, “Reclast.” The “drug whose name shall not be mentioned” that gives you nightmares and anxiety attacks and too much fear. You had a vicious bout with a grueling flu that kept you in bed and dehydrated with high temperatures that confused your own doctor. She made you go to the Emergency Room, I met you there. You got through that, now, you have to work through the past to the present and the future. Think about your favorite occupation in the summer time, swimming in your condo’s pool with its chlorinated clear, blue water and the temperature of a warm bath. You will be surrounded by friends, and fans. You will hold court in the shade while people gather around you like the Queen that you know you are.

We all get older but I don’t want to get older without you by my side. You are the first person I call when I have any type of news. You are the one that tells me that beneath my emotional mush, “I am very strong inside, like steel” and sometimes I need to be reminded. Mama, be abrasive or demanding and unreasonable. Really, its fine. You can remind me that I should exercise more and get mad at your grandchildren for not calling often enough.

I am not ready, I never will be ready to give you up. I want to play “tickle fingers” on your hands like we used to do when I was a small child. I want to see the flirtatious woman I know, engaging with everyone you meet because people are drawn to you like moths to light.  Don’t forget our famous song by Helen Reddy: “You and Me Against The World.” I will sing it for you if you want but mostly I want to sing it with you.

Love,

Your Daughter

Happy Birthday Daddy

Wiener Schnitzel

Image via Wikipedia

November 13th is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 88. He passed away almost 9 years ago but the pain on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, is the same raw pain as the day he died.  It’s a pain that is hard to describe for people who have never lost a parent. Believe me, I know.

Instead of wallowing in depression this year I am going to try to remember and honor the man I loved so dearly. His blue-gray eyes, child-like qualities, generosity, pep-talks and his warmth. I miss the soft yet sturdy hugs as if a limb of my own had been amputated. I miss the familiar smell of his after-shave cologne that he sprayed with enthusiasm. My dad and I were very similar; he and I had an amazing connection and a strong emotional bond. We thought alike and we completely understood each other. The day he died, my heart was gauged with intense pain, my heart missing an essential beat.

My dad and I had so much fun together when I was younger. We traveled to  Vienna, Austria, where my grandparents lived. We ate sugary-sweet meringues that were shaped like delicate white swans and sipped hot chocolate with “schlag”  (whipped cream). We ate exploding red-berry sweet and sour tarts in Viennese cafes. My grandmother would fry up her famous wiener schnitzel,  served with plump lemon wedges every single night.

I was in first grade when my mom couldn’t come to open school day but my dad came. I think he was the only father in the class and I was so proud, so happy that he was there. I remember sharing my milk and cookies with him and I felt so important. At a shared birthday party with a friend he surprised me by coming home from work early, sneaking into the party like a secret surprise. It was a joy so innocent and so intense that I remember the feeling to this day. I was shocked and delighted as I wrapped my arms around his tall legs like a clinging, furry animal. Back then dads’ weren’t as involved in their children’s’ lives as they are today but he always had time for me; his little one, his mouse, his baby.

We had adventures, the two of us. My mother worked a great deal, she traveled the world being a tour director and translator. One night my father and I went out to a Spanish restaurant and sipped sangria, with glistening, beaming chunks of bright oranges and green apples bobbing in the rich, red wine. We toasted people we knew with every sip we took. The more we sipped the stranger the toasts were. I remember we toasted a wall -paper hanger guy that never showed up to our house, people we barely knew and random people from the past.

We went to the bagel store together, early on a Sunday morning and the store was closed. However, the fresh, warm, doughy bagels had already been delivered to the store in huge paper sacks. My dad happily took some and we left, an experience a teenager doesn’t forget! We would go grocery shopping at a huge Pathmark store with my mom and he and I would find the biggest size jars of silly things: three-pound troughs of peanut butter and dill pickles, tubs of mandarin oranges and hide them in the cart as a joke. My mother would roll her eyes and shake her head, clearly not amused, but my dad and I would laugh hysterically. Often, there would be open boxes of cookies or candy and we would help ourselves to free samples. Back then, we weren’t worried about poison or germs or anthrax.

My father spent his entire life working for TWA,  getting free airline tickets for our family.  My father, mother, older sister and I flew to: France, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. First class seats were a mere eight dollars extra but that was a lot of money years ago and a very special treat.

This Saturday on my dad’s birthday my husband and I are going to visit my mom and take her out for lunch, we don’t want her to be alone. I know that spending the day with my mom would make my dad very happy.  He loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. Later, that night, my kids and I will remember him with his own, signature and messy concoction, “Papa’s game”: a “mixture” containing  little bits of everything that is leftover on our plates and in our glasses, swirled together with a spoon and a smile. This year, I will toast to his memory.

What I Miss About Childhood

Up, Up And Away

Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 747-100

I miss the innocence of being a child. When you are little you think that your parents can handle all of life’s problems. When I was a child we boarded airplanes continuously since our father worked for TWA. My sister and I had to dress up in matching blue skirts and sweaters, I remember the buttons felt and looked like small rocks. The only feeling we had, since we were flying non-rev, (subject to space) was perhaps annoyance that we may not get on the flight we wanted. We would have to wait for another flight at the airport which could take hours. At that time it seemed like a tragedy. Now, we fear terrorist attacks, bombs exploding, emergency landings and even birds in the sky. We take off our shoes, we go through security; everyone looks suspicious. Back then we dressed like we were going to the opera, now people wear jeans and sweat pants on the airplane, myself included. I would give anything to have that innocence back; I wouldn’t even complain about wearing a sweater set that identically matched my older sister’s.There is no way of making up for that loss of innocence; after 9/11 the world as we had known it, changed forever.

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The Message

I don’t know how to begin to write this, other than with a hushed voice,  barely a whisper. It is something so important to me and something I believe in, even though I know many will scoff.  I don’t really care, I know what I have felt, seen, heard, experienced. I have felt the chills go up and down my arms, tiny hairs sticking straight up. Others, like me, will rejoice in the affirmation that they are not “imagining things” that “it’s not a coincidence.”  What we know, those of us who believe, cannot be swayed. It is a gift for us, from the other side.

After my father died in 2002 I was lost, overcome by grief and had never felt the breaking of my heart in such a literal way. Life, as I knew it, had ended. No more pep-talks from my dad, no more nurturing hugs, no more inside jokes. My dad had lived his life as a company man, working for TWA airlines for most of his life, well over forty years. He loved TWA, volunteered to be a flight attendant when there was a flight attendant strike; flew to Chicago for milk when there was a milk strike in NY to feed my sister.  He volunteered for anything TWA related; he was not a pilot although sometimes I think he thought he was.

A few days after the funeral, in the bitter, frosty cold, I finally dragged myself out of the house just to get some fresh air. I needed a destination so I drove to a thrift shop a few towns away that I had liked to go to in the past. I walked in, looked around, saw nothing of interest and walked out again. On my way in there was a clear pathway, no litter, no clutter, no loose pieces of paper, nothing. On my way out of the thrift shop not fifteen minutes later I walked down three steps and saw a bright, red, plastic wrapped luggage tag. It said TWA on it. I knew that was a sign from my dad and I crumpled up and cried right there on the pavement. I was overcome yet thankful for the message, he was still with me and I knew he always would be. I carry that card, to this day, in my pocketbook.

I had received messages from my dad, given to me by others, for example the lovely and talented Roland Comtois, a  psychic who channels messages from the dead to the living.  In fact, a message was waiting for me, written down by Roland, before I even appeared at his event. Also, I had felt my father while I was sitting at my children’s school recitals and there would be a rush of wind out of no where.  I knew Dad was watching. Admittedly, the messages, throughout the years became less frequent but to this day, when I need my Dad the most, he is there. I believe this to my core and while my mom gets scared by these stories, I get comforted.

Two weeks ago we drove our daughter to sleep away camp in Connecticut. On the way there I noticed the car ahead of us whose license plate was 222-TWA. I gasped and eagerly showed my husband who is definitely a skeptic. He smiled and I knew that he didn’t believe the way I did but it didn’t matter. “Hi Dad” I whispered. Just nights before I prayed for my dad to be with us; my husband has been unemployed since September and I have been sick with an auto-immune disease for 3 years. I told him, “Mom is really worried” which was true and he always had been so protective of my mom. “We need your help, Dad. Please.”

We dropped our daughter off, and kissed and hugged good-bye leaving her in the arms of her friends she hadn’t seen in a year. There was a lot of happy squealing and shouts of joy, a good time for parents to leave, knowing that she was happy.

The drive home was uneventful except for my husband excitedly shouting “Look at that car!”  I turned my head to the side and right in front of us was the license plate 888-TWA.  My husband became an instant convert,  knowing that the number 8 was a special number between my father and I since I was a little girl. “Thank you Daddy” I said, trying to figure out what the message was.

The pep-talk I had been missing was right in front of me. The glass of water, for me had always been “half empty” but for my dad it had always been “half full.” I used to over-worry everything and now, as my Dad once instructed, “just try to be in neutral” and I was trying, with a grateful smile above. My prayers had been answered, he was letting us know that he was there, he had heard us, he would help.

The lights in our bedroom, on the right side, go dim for hours at a time, and then they come back on later, this has been happening for three weeks now. The bulbs don’t burn out, they just have this pattern, day in and day out, night and day.  For some people it could be explained by a loose circuit. But to me, it’s my father staying in touch and winking.