I flew for the first time when I was eleven. Well – okay, technically I flew as an infant. But it didn’t matter to me until I was eleven. My brother and I were sent off to our aunt and uncle’s house in Ontario, and we were given Unaccompanied Minor tags to wear. We got to ride on one of the airport cars outside of the gate to where we would be picked up.
I didn’t know my aunt or uncle or cousins. I was certainly aware of them, and had seen them before, probably, but they were strangers, and I remember being afraid. Nothing else comes to mind about that visit. But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about in this post, anyways.
I was afraid of flying and a few years later I was being shipped to relatives in the opposite direction – Newfoundland. Most summers we were sent there and I grew to resent it over the years, as I was a fairly solitary kid and having to spend so much time with relatives was draining. So I was on an airplane going to Stephenville, afraid of the plane and wishing I was back at home. I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen.
The plane flew low over the tabletop mountains. One of my aunts lives in the valley, and from her kitchen windows you can see the mountains right outside. I thought about her house and pressed my face to the window to watch the mountains and wondered if I could see anything familiar.
It was late afternoon, and the sun was setting behind us in the west. I remember how golden yellow it looked, and it made the mountains glow. The clouds were above us, and they were grey and blue, threatening rain. I don’t think the sight is one I am likely to see again anytime soon, but rain was falling in clusters across the mountaintops, like a dozen shower heads descended from above to pour on small circles of earth. They sparkled in the evening light. Between the rain showers the sky was clear, and the horizon seemed a thousand miles away.
That trip is one of many that have combined in my memory, unable to be distinguished from one summer to the next. Everything was always the same, every time we visited. The only mark of time passing was my grandparents getting older – each summer there was a new assistive device in the house, then a new care worker. Now they no longer live in that house. My grandpa died last summer. The book of those summers of my life has very much been closed and shelved, the pages all stuck together.
I do not know that I appreciated those summers enough, but I was young and kids aren’t supposed to be appreciative. I think about flying over those mountains more than I think about the weeks down on the ground among them. In my mind that time was always in half rain and half sunshine. I learned that the sun sets on all things. Sometimes, I suppose, they are made more beautiful for it.