Today, Sarah McCoy joins Great Thoughts’ Great Authors. Sarah is the author of The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico and the just released, The Bakers Daughter. My review of The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico is here.
My first memory of being on an airplane was when I was five years old. I can’t remember where I was headed. We were living in Germany, so I assume it was one of our visits home to the United States. What I do recall is that the roaring engine made me numb all over; that my dad laid blankets between the seats and told me to try to sleep; that my mom gave me a green apple, forever fusing the smell of Granny Smiths with wanderlust; and most of all, I remember being taken up to the front of the plane to look out a window no bigger than a fish bowl.
Flight has always been a mind-blowing concept. My parents tried their best to explain it properly, but one glimpse at the Lufthansa crane logo and my imagination concocted a whopping tale. I firmly believed that we walked through an enchanted maze until we reached the nest of a colossal bird with a stomach full of seats, á la a Flintstone’s cartoon. With all the passengers buckled tight, the bird flapped its mighty wings and soared higher than all the other birds, higher than the trees and clouds. That accounted for why we never spotted it from the earth. I imagined it resembled the giant emerald parrots my grandpa told me about in Puerto Rico, only with wings as blue as the sky and eyes like two moons. All of this made perfect sense to me at the time. I hadn’t a shadow of a doubt that such a titan bird existed.
Looking out that portal, awake when I should’ve been sleeping, my child’s mind’s eye flipped the universe. I was convinced I was looking up at the clouds covering the earth and down at the blue sky, flecks of white stars beginning to reveal themselves like a summer twilight. Thinking back on that moment, I still feel it that way.
“The sky is very blue,” I told my dad who had walked me up to the window.
“That’s water and waves down there. We’re inside the airplane over the ocean, Sarah.” He’d picked me up so I could lean my cheek to the cold glass and see the body of the plane, gray and black without a single feather. In that moment, everything popped, like my ears when we first ascended.
Have you ever seen the “Young Girl-Old Woman” optical illusion painting? It was like that. An ‘ah-ha’ moment that I wasn’t entirely glad I had. I’d known travel from one absolute perspective and in a blink, another had replaced it. The world turned upside down, which was really right side up. Gone was my mythical bird and her topaz feathers, and no matter how hard I tried to believe we were inside her belly, I couldn’t anymore. The dream had vanished.
I travel by air quite often as an adult. No matter where I go or how long the flight, I always bring books. I bypass the blockbuster movies, bevy of music and favorite TV shows. Those aren’t for me. I like for the engine rumble to numb my senses and open my mind to limitless possibilities. Snuggled in plane blankets, I lose myself in page after page of fictional dreamscapes, crisp and sweet as apples. I’m no Freud, but I can recognize that this has to do with that first memory. Maybe I’m trying to reclaim something of myself and the time before I knew that planes were made of tin and not star-dusted feathers.
What are you reading and where are you going?