Sometimes I worry just a tad about my mental capacity. Some things are so obvious, but it may take me years to even see them. It’s a mite disturbing and I hope that I’m not a wee bit “challenged” if you catch my drift. This writing business has caused me to look at things more closely than I ever have. I recently came to understand that I’ve suffered for years from tunnel vision, focused straight ahead.
Case in point: Until very recently, I had not considered how me as a teenaged girl, flying an airplane 38 years my senior, may have seemed to others. Oh I was aware of the sensation the Student Prince invariably caused, and that there was added interest due to my being a young girl pilot. I would bask in the limelight of the Prince; posing for pictures, answering questions, being interviewed by reporters at local fly ins, and taking people for rides. I enjoyed the attention, but I never took it seriously. I attributed it to the airplane. It was fun to show off no doubt, and I had lots of fun being the person affiliated with such an interest provoking machine.
I was given pause for a brief moment a few years back while rooting through a box full of photos. I found a picture of a young me in the rear cockpit of the biplane while ahead of me, a paying passenger smiling blithely beneath their helmet. My God! I was shocked at how young I appeared. The date on the back confirmed that I was just twenty and hopping rides at a local Puget Sound airport. My astonished reaction wasn’t because of my youth per se, it was the passenger who seemed so relaxed, happy and confident despite their baby pilot. And for crying out loud, where did I get the confidence myself? It was a strange moment, and for a few seconds I did wonder what on earth I must have seemed like to others. Touching down at their airport, hanging a sign and commencing the fine art of barnstorming. A very young. Girl. It would have caused my eyebrows to arch if I were them. Apparently, arched eyebrows or not, I recall flying solid weekends of rides at that very airport until dusk each day.
I had forgotten that moment of considering other’s perspectives of my young pilot self until a recent conversation with my mother. We were talking about stories for the book, and she told me, “Yeah Summer, I remember when you were a teenager and you’d come home with your face all wind burned, your hair stringy and knotted. I’d ask where you’d been, you would say you had just flown to the San Juans or Bellingham, or Portland.” I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe I had never, ever wondered how it must have been to have a teen daughter who was a pilot that owned and flew an antique biplane. How interesting…..and then I realized that it must have been an equally notable experience for others who knew me. My classmates, my boyfriend, my bosses, my mechanic, my community and my passengers. I am considering adding some of their perspectives to my story. Or at least having some interesting conversations with them.
I comfort myself that perhaps I am not a dull crayon after all. Maybe I was just too busy having fun to consider the view of others.
My mother also told me that she once posed the question of my selling the Student Prince and buying a more practical airplane. She says I responded with, “No way! Out of the question, that airplane is irreplaceable to me. Besides,” I told her, “you have no idea how cool it is to be a girl with a biplane.”