Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An unexpected joy

After a week together it is hard to go our separate ways. Chip and I took Sierra to Girl Scout camp on Sunday afternoon, where she will spend a week, non-communicato. Chip is back to work. Today Gabe and I left for Jefferson City later than we had planned, but no worries -- I still have "vacation eyes!" I spent time putting some new music on my pod and did the dishes while Gabe spent an hour playing a computer game. It was 11:15 by the time we got gasoline, bought dress pants for Gabe's performance and stopped at the cash machine.

The drive was fun, singing along with his choir music CD, playing the ABC game, eating the sandwiches I packed, playing trivia, talking and joking. We drove directly to the airport in Jeff City, where i had heard that the "Wings of Freedom" warplanes would be parked on the tarmac. We paid to see the two bombers and Mustang up close, and I immediately attracted the attention of crew member Aaron, who was graciously taking our photos and telling us more about the planes and the foundation that sponsors them. Eventually he offered me a chance to take a ride. I declined, feeling my responsibility as a chaperone, but when I later watched the B-24 buzz our 8th floor hotel window, I desperately wished I had accepted his offer.

With Chip's blessing and Jefferson's encouragement, I returned to the tarmac at 8:30 the next morning, my cup of bribery in hand. Gabe was busy for the next seven hours, rehearsing with the multitudes of youth assembled to present a stellar choral performance in honor of the Missouri Choir Directors Association conference. I returned to the airport to ask Aaron for another chance to jump on that bird. I spent the day as a welcomed member of the team -- dripping with sweat, following the crew around on the 110 degree tarmac, asking questions, taking photos, being photographed, sitting in the Mustang cockpit, holding a wrench in the engine as pilot Mack adjusted oil pressure, taking ticket money, stamping hands, listening to the well worn stories of veteran pilots, talking with a writer for Warbirds magazine, crawling through the belly of the B-17 bomber, pushing the propeller blades, packing up the souvenir tent, stowing the cargo, lunching with the crew, signaling for engine start and taxi of the B-17, watching it take off like a slow graceful bird, and feeling glad for the courage to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! As I watched first the Mustang, then the bomber lift off, I was swept away with them, trying to imagine what it would be like inside -- now, and then. Although I didn't get my ride that day, I was overwhelmed and giddy to have experienced this day on cloud 9. I am hooked. I plan to catch up with this "Flying Circus" again next week, and hope to experience the ride in exchange for a few days of volunteer time.

To be continued...

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