Monday, April 15, 2019

Humble Roots




I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania.  Well, truth be told, several small towns.  Each shared an easy, laid-back way of life, neighbors who knew everything you were doing.  A big event for us was going out in a car at night, with flashlights, pulling onto the side of a road and parking, looking for deer.  We did this every weekend.  I had no reason to believe that my future included anything different.  But it did.  I went to college in a town much larger than my hometown, Indiana, Pa.  In my senior year of college I decided to apply to be an airplane stewardess.  I really don't know why.  I had been on a plane only once, a very small plane that took me from Ocean City, Maryland to Pittsburgh so I could be at my Grandfather's funeral.   My best friend from grade school said I had stood up at the sixth grade banquet and said I wanted to be a stewardess.  (I'm not being politically incorrect--stewardess was the proper name at the time.  Now the job is called Flight Attendant).  When she and I talked about it, I remembered being with my mom at her job which was cleaning Mrs. Sleighter's house.  Mrs.  Sleighter had a huge library and I being an avid reader sat there for the hours my mother cleaned.  One of the books I found was called "Coffee, Tea, or Me?"  It was a, perhaps exaggerated, book about a woman whose job was to be a stewardess.   This woman flew all over the country, slept on her friends couches, met celebrities and business owners, and told her story in this book.  Whether I realized it or not, that book somehow entered my consciousness.
So, back to college.  Three different interview and three different airlines later, I got hired by Northwest Orient Airlines.  I remember distinctly them saying I would have to move to Minnesota.  When you grew up in Pennsylvania, you know about Chicago, then California.  Not too much in between.  I wasn't sure about this move.  But my grandmother and my mother encouraged me to accept the job, even with sadness about me moving so far away.  After all, if you work for an airline, you can fly free anytime, anywhere, right?
Well, fast forward 10 or 15 years.  I was a (Flight Attendant ) now.  It was wonderful and hard.  Wonderful to see different cities and meet new people.  Hard to leave family and friends in Minnesota and Pennsylvania for holidays and weekends.  But in the back of my mind, I always thought "what is a girl from small town middle America doing flying all over the world and seeing things that no one ever thought they would see?"  But I was.  I saw cities and toured so many castles and monuments that, with jet lag in full control, I can barely remember.  Tokyo, Seoul, Amsterdam, London, Oslo, Dublin, Paris.  Paris.  Paris was a city that I had yearned to see my whole life, but was not a city that I don't remember clearly.   Driving into the city was like a dream come true. The Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, charming bistros on every corner.  Every where you looked was beauty.  It was old, dirty, real, busy, rough, beautiful, sparkling, lovely, but unforgettable.
Then I came upon Notre Dame.  You can't miss it. She controls a whole corner on the Seine, a whole block or two or three.  She sits there like a queen, like a queen waiting for her subjects to come to her.  And come to her, we do.  You can't resist her.  Her columns, her art, her sculptures, her peace, her heart.  I wanted to go back.  I always thought I could go back.  And see what I had missed before.  But is that true anymore?  Can I go back? Can anyone go back?  Is her spirit still there even if her frame is gone?  I believe so. Her spirit and strength will be there, forever.  Her memories will always be in my mind, along with my childhood acceptance of a very simple life, that turned out to be not so simple.

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