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Flying to Freedom

Reading between the Pines
When I was 2 years old, my parents got divorced. I was lucky in a way, because at the time I was too young to understand that this separation, at its most basic level, meant the world as I knew it had changed.

By the time I turned 5, my mom had remarried. We left Georgia, where our entire family was from, and moved to Kentucky, where I ultimately grew up. Back then, fathers didn’t have the same parenting rights as today, so at a very young age, I became accustomed to filling my backpack with Cracker Jacks and chocolate milk, tucking away the latest Little House on the Prairie novel, and flying to see my dad a few times a year.

In those early years of flight travel, I imagined that each time I boarded a plane I was off to an exotic location. I fantasized about jumping out the window and onto the marshmallow shaped clouds, doing backflips in the air on fluffy sky-high trampolines. Fueled by my dreams, I pretended my trips weren’t meant to split time between two people who loved me but no longer loved each other. Rather, there was a higher purpose for my travel halfway across the U.S. Perhaps my thoughts were a coping mechanism for my parents’ split or simply an idealization of the ordinary, but either way and for whatever reason, flying was simply fun.

Confident and, in my mind at least, years ahead of my actual age, I hated holding the supervising flight attendant’s hand as we deplaned and walked through the airport toward the exit. I just wanted to explore on my own. By the time I was 10, I could talk my way out of the escort and wander through the terminals by myself. Flying back then was nothing short of exhilarating, both because of my ability to convince someone a lot older than me that it was a good idea to let me go it alone, as well as the thrill of that first rush of being by myself.

Today, it appears that a pastime which was once something to look forward to has become a means to an end. Anyone and everyone seems to dread flying. But not me. I still love to fly as much as I did when I was young. Even when the surrounding circumstances aren’t ideal, fastening my seatbelt and preparing for takeoff will always and forever represent freedom, independence and adventure.

By Stacie Chadwick





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