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Smoke gets in your eyes…

What a day of conflicting emotions.

Jerry, Chrissy and I were resigned to waiting until at least tomorrow morning for weather from an eastward moving cold front to pass before attempting to head west for home.

Late this morning, during breakfast, Jerry and I both checked weather on our phones and found that the route was surprisingly clear. He looked at me, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” We were all getting a little anxious to start heading home; spouses were missing us, and we were missing them too as well as our pets and home in general. Even though we have been having such an unbelievable good time with all of our new friends, our internal homing devices were becoming more incessant. I told Jerry that I certainly was indeed thinking what he was, and in a matter of minutes we were at the airport. While I got a full weather briefing showing good conditions with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms along our intended route, Chrissy and Jerry began assembling all of our gear and packing the planes in Susan and Andy’s hangar. All of our friends were at work, because in spite of their best efforts to act like wealthy eccentrics, they are not. I joined them in their readying at the hangar and was sitting in the back cockpit of the Prince having a nightmare of a time sorting all of the electrical cords for the GPS, handheld radio, push to talk switch, and intercom when Brad appeared. He was clearly surprised to see us all so obviously engaged in preparing to leave. We had made the decsion so suddenly and were so intent on getting packed and fueled that we had not yet called any of our friends to let them know of our sudden departure. Brad, bless his heart, helped me sort out my can of worms with the wires and plug everything into the proper receptacle, and gave Susan a call. Jerry taxiied the Cub to the fuel pumps while Chrissy and I rolled the Prince over. In a matter of minutes via the coconut telegraph, Sophie was there with her parents Mike and Kathie, Patrick came screeching up in a tiny car with the fuel door open, and Andy arrived. We all stood around chit chatting while we waited for Susan and tried to pretend that we were not on the verge of saying goodbye. Chrissy’s eyes were moistening, but I was focused on the flight. Or at least I tried to. Susan rolled up shortly. She gave Chrissy and I each a copy of a gorgeous photo that Andy had taken the night we had arrived at Moraine. It was a photo of Chrissy and I, still in the airplane grinning wildly while Susan, grinning just as fully, handed us a bottle of champagne. And there are, inexplicably, several neon, multi colored hearts that appear to be swooshing up at us all from the flying wires and dancing all around us. A photo of pure love and joy.

We all milled around the airplanes and tortured the poor fueler, asking him to take group photos of us with multiple cameras. First in front of the Prince and then the Cub. Jerry gently reminded us that it was time to go, and after more hugs and moist eyes, Chrissy and I prepared to climb into the plane. Patrick noticed that we had forgotten the fresh box of Dayton browines they had gotten us for the trip home. The box was sitting on the ramp, and we waved to Jerry who was already in the Cub. He graciously gave the brownies a place with him and then started the Cub’s engine. Chrissy and I reluctantly put on our heavier clothes despite the fact that it was quite warm on the ground. Yet one more round of hugs and this time a few outright tears. The Kinner started for Brad on the first hot blade and our friends stood next to our left wing tip. We waved and blew kisses, everyone looking a bit forlorn in spite of smiles. We all knew that the end of a fantastic chapter of adventure, connection and fun was closing. I advanced the throttle and taxiied away, while Chrissy shot some rear facing pictures capturing not only she and I, but the receding figures of Susan, Andy, Patrick, Brad, Mike, Kathie and Sophie. It was sad. Chrissy told me later that she was glad for the wind in the front cockpit helping to dry her eyes.

As is our routine, I took off first toward the west with Jerry following. I could see our friends standing near the right side of the runway. Jerry and I stayed in the pattern and made a low approach, waving the wings and then climbed with the sun to our backs, westward toward the land of our hearts, yet leaving part of our hearts with the diminutive waving figures on the ground at Moraine Airfield.

As Richard Bach wrote:

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbye, a farewell is necessary if we are to meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes is certain for those who are friends.”

14 responses »

  1. Will be fun to watch your return trip. If stopping in Iowa, let me know. marty.santic at Have a daughter and hubby in Seattle, so, your trip is teaching me a bit.

  2. Such a wonderful trip. I enjoyed it so much, as I know you made many long lasting memories for my son, Mike, my daughter in law, Kathie, and my special grand daughter, Sophie. Have safe travels back home.

  3. Donn Trethewey

    Summer, Chrissy, and Jerry.
    Now it’s our turn to wait for you to show up here. Keep the prop pointed towards the setting sun . . . we’ll see you soon.
    Love, my friends.
    Donn Trethewey

  4. Summer,

    No matter how many times we hear Richard’s words and no matter how much we believe them, parting is always hard, isn’t it, Summer? Darn it anyway!

    Near the end of Part Two of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” as Jonathan is preparing to leave Sullivan Seagull, he talks about space and time and Here and Now. Jonathan says to Sully, “And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”

    I was listening to Richard reading those words in the audio book yesterday as I was driving through Peoria, Illinois. My ears swell with tears each time I read or hear that passage.

    Five miles from the river, I looked to my left and saw a seagull — at a strip mall, no less. A few minutes later, after making a wrong turn, I saw a small plane taking off from Mt. Hawley airport.

    I’d like to think both were reminders of Jonathan’s next words to Sully. “Good-bye, Sully. We’ll meet again.”

    Now, my words, not Richard’s:

    “Each of those people is in your heart, Summer, and you in theirs. No matter the geographical distance between you, no one can take that away – ever. Hold them tight – always.”

    Safe travels,

  5. There are moments in life that, if you are lucky enough to experience, are larger than life itself. A time when the universe is in harmony and all energy is spinning in the same direction. I think of those moments as “heaven on earth” – because everything is so right, so warm, and so perfect. This has been one of those weeks. Little did we know what was to unfold when Summer, Chrissy, and Jerry landed last Thursday at sunset. I think we all had an idea it would be grand.

    Summer related to me that she told Chrissy as they started across the Cascades, “When you return home, you won’t be the same person…” None of us ever will be after this week. Bonds have been forged that have strength far greater than the sturdiest metal and memories created that will last so long they cannot be carbon dated.

    Andy and I talked on the tarmac after the last glimmer of the Student Prince and the Cub faded in the distance. We talked about those who have not “touched the sky” and how they cannot begin to understand the aviation family, the brother and sisterhood called “Pilots”. Is it because we dance among the clouds in a different realm viewing the world on high? Is it because we have found that life is short, and our flying life even shorter, that we must live each moment to the fullest and push the boundaries of the envelopes that contain us? Whatever the reason, our family has just grown with Summer, Chrissy, & Jerry. Their families are our families now. In just one moment of time, the world will never be the same and that’s a wonderful thing.

    “Just one word, can change your life…
    Just one note, can write a song…
    Just one leap, and your heart takes flight…
    Just one dream, to call your own.”

    Words from “Just One Dream” by Cross Country from the movie “Pearl”

  6. Jeanette Curry

    I have been living vicariously through your adventure. Dear Kool~Aid Sister, I can’t wait to hug you in person.

  7. What a bunch of poetic aviators – how lucky we are to be part of that special family! We’re all waiting for you back here, but not at the expense of “get-there-itis”! (Just a little practical old-fashioned Midwest mothering, like we need to remind YOU!) Fly safe, enjoy the return trip – not only will you be changed at your return, the trip back is part of that: we all know that things look amazingly different going the other way!

  8. Summer,
    I just got home from the island and feel like I’ve missed your whole trip. I’m glad to be able to go back and read your postings from previous days. I told myself that I would be in bed by 8:00 p.m. because I’m going back to work tomorrow and here it is almost 11:00 p.m. and I haven’t even finished reading your blog yet. I asked everyone I knew to save their copies of the PT Leader for me since I was gone when the article came out too. It sounds like you’re having the time of your life and the pictures are fantastic. See you when you get home!

    Love, Mom

  9. Summer, Chrissy, and Jerry, thanks again for entering our hearts. It was an amazing weekend, and Sophia is still on cloud 9 about it all. Watching the planes head west into the beautiful blue skies and puffy cotton ball clouds, the sun glinting off the silver wings of the Student Prince, I was waiting for the credits to roll on the closing of this made-for-the- movies weekend (well 6 days actually, but who’s counting). Now I am looking forward to the sequel, hopefully sooner rather than later!

  10. I think this has been a life changing event for Javan and I too. It’s almost dizzying, for me anyway. Funny how that time comes when you feel the little tugs that pull you back toward home. Because we feel it also on this end. I’m in awe of the video clip above! It;s so right. Look!! It even looks like Summer in that plane! Maybe a little Chrissy thrown in! Uncanny! Be safe (of course I know you will) and relax as everything at home is good. I love you Chrissy! xoxo

  11. To Summer, Chrissy and Jerry…we have shared the sky together, laughed together, cried together and shared our passion for friends together. In just three short months, with what started as a chance email, we have gained three life-long friends. As we became acquainted through emails and facebook, our lives began to change. We yearned for the day we would meet. What seemed as a far-flung dream suddenly began to morph into something special. As the months turned into weeks and then days, something special happened that at the time, we didn’t fully understand would be one of those precious, life-changing events that rarely comes along. It is truly amazing how the love of flying can bring people from great distances so close together. I find that in our close-knit world of antique airplanes, you will share wonders and secrets with your peers that you wouldn’t even share with family, not because they would not care but because they do not understand.

    When the time came that we finally met, it was as if we had known each other for years. No hesitation on speaking our minds, no hesitation in our actions and certainly no hesitation in expressing our feelings. We all became as one…..a family. As we shared our time together we grew closer and wished we could continue forever. Life has a strange way of making twists and turns as it weaves us on a journey. Life, family, and work all come rapidly into focus before we are ready to let go of such precious moments. Each moment together was made to count and created a lifetime of memories. You will forever be in our hearts.

  12. Boy,are we sorry that we missed your great time together. I hope that you can come back next year; we will make sure we get there for that one.

  13. I remember putting in lots of hours helping my father-in-law restore this airplane. Mainly worked on painting, putting the fabric on (had a lot of experience from other rebuilds and showed folks how to do the basics and did a lot of the curves), rib stitching, and odd jobs. It was a lot of fun to do and a labor of love. I was really sorry to see it go when Bill decided he could no longer fly.

    I also worked on restoring the Southern Pacific 4449. It was a really great experience when we got pictures of Bill flying the Student Prince along with the 4449!

    Sounds like it’s found a good home!


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