On a wing and a prayer


We had made our lists and checked them twice. We had removed all extraneous jewelry. We had packed everything in 3 ounce clear travel sizes.

We had forgotten a toothbrush. If you are going to forget something, a toothbrush is a good choice. They sell them everywhere. Even at gas stations.

Retailers of America I thank you. You get us.

We had arrived two hours early, removed our shoes and shown our boarding passes to anyone in a uniform who made eye contact with us.

This may have included the cleaning guy and a sandwich vendor. I had explained to the kind but harried woman at the ticket counter that my 15-year-old had never flown before.

I wanted to explain that she hadn’t been apart from me for more than 48 hours ever. I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t sure I could do this.

When the trip was offered through the generosity of friends — seven days in Florida — I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew I would miss her fiercely every minute of every hour of the seven days that she was gone.

I also knew that it was best for her confidence in the world at large and herself if she went.


When you are the second born child you don’t get to experience many “firsts” first. Today GirlWonder would be the first of our children to fly.

This, then, should explain the growing anticipation, nervousness and hand clenching as departure time approached.

Just like when they are babies and fall down, you learn quickly that to gasp or show fear or dismay will lead them to tears.

If you say briskly “You’re OK!” they very often realize they are.

So too it is with older children — and their mamas.

I remained forcefully bright and cheery from our 4 a.m. departure in the cold dark for the drive to the airport through the TSA screening: all briskness and bright lights.

“You’re going to have fun! Flying is safe!” Repeat as needed.

Then we sat in a surprisingly quiet boarding area and watched the sun come up through the plate glass windows. The sun glinted off a waiting jet that looked both too big to fly and impossibly small.

How could it hold all these people? Luggage? Love?

We watched planes take off and I was unable to explain the mystery of flight beyond “smart people” and “faith.”


Finally it came time to board. She gave me a long hug and a quick squeeze.

As she handed her boarding pass to the ticketing agent, I realized that in movies this is where someone always shouts “wait!” There was no wait.

Heading down the passageway, she turned one last time to wave. It was all too fast! She gave me the “I love you sign” she’s been throwing up since she was 4. Then she was gone.

The airline requires that parents of youth travelers remain in the airport until the flight has departed. As if they could have pried me away.

I stared out the window and waited as the plane slowly backed out to taxi out to the runway, I prided myself on how well I was doing. I hadn’t shed a tear!

The minutes ticked by. I was so in control I amazed myself!


Then, as if shot from a rubber band, the plane lifted off. It flew straight away and within seconds was only a glint in the sun.

Watching that tiny speck swallowed up by the clouds, I felt the tears flow. It has been said that having a child is to forever after know what it is to have your heart walking around outside your body.

At that moment my heart left the bounds of gravity. Still as I sniffled, I was proud.

Was it hard? Yes, of course. Do I miss her fiercely? Certainly. Do I pray for her safety and well being? Yes. That’s my job.

I also feel that my job as a parent is to not only provide a firm foundation for our children but — when possible — to give them wings.

Special thanks to the very kind TSA Agents, passengers and crew of Southwest Flight 4476. They may have had the most prayed over plane in all of the sky this morning.

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