Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gift of Flight

Her face, a map of emotions, revealed the war taking place between her ears. The mental debate was only a skirmish compared with the battle of emotions in her heart. The terrain of winkled brow, wide open eyes, and tightly pursed lips detailed determination, doubt, fear, indecision, and hope. If you looked closely, you could almost see a cannon of the soul loaded with the ammunition of regret. Which answer would result in the report of the cannon? One? Or both?

She came from a time when the promise 'to love, honor, and obey' typified a wedding ceremony. No one dared debate what the term 'submission' meant and to which partner the term applied. If she said yes, she dared tip toe within reach of violating the spirit of that vow. But her heart, oh, her heart was in a pitched battle for the future. Her daughter's future.

Would she forever tether that freer spirit to the earth? Or, would she attempt to set her free? The request was simple: permission to drive to the largest town in the next county over. Couldn't be more than 30 minutes. She might as well have asked, again, to fly to Europe on a class trip so equally improbable was the chance for a positive response.

The daughter watched without breathing. If she made any move at all, it might break the spell. She could see the desire to say yes mingle with the dread of what would be unleashed with that answer. The fragile balance would shift and trip the lever to open the floodgates of change.

The fear of change, or perhaps the inability to control it, left a mark of paralysis on every facet of life it seemed. This one, this girl who rode the tricycle down the main thoroughfare of a fishing village, was aware of the confines of her life. As usual, she was looking for a way out. It started with the symbol of an easy 30 minute car ride.

That bit of independence could fuel a fire for another step and another. The mother was aware. Rogue tricycle riders don't go down easy. She let out a resigned sigh, and said, “What will your daddy say?”

Courtesy Christina Jones Hooker
The chin of the tricycle rider lifted almost imperceptibly. She might as well be throwing her chubby toddler leg over the tricycle seat in an attempt to carry off her caper before the ferry docked again. “He's not here. If he comes home, and I've already done it, what can he say?”

She giggled. She never drank. She never cussed. She never smoked. She never abandoned her manners. That day...that day, she flirted with the spirit of the vow and giggled. “Ok,” she said, “But, don't you DARE have a wreck.”

Time has moved on. I understand more about fraidy cats and their paralysis. I've managed some victories marked by flights to Canada and the Caribbean. I've moved to places where no one, not even the bartender named Sam, knew my name. Despite the energy and effort, the fraidy cat still haunts me. I got it honest. It was handed down before me like a family heirloom. I am hoping the tradition stopped with me.

I've heard it said that women, as they age, become their mothers. Sons #1 & 2 laugh at me now when I pause to count out correct change to help lighten the load of coins I'm lugging around. I have become my mother.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
She's gone 14 months now, but she is here in the events of the week. I remembered her mischievous, nervous giggle. Always so afraid of breaking a rule or violating the spirit of the vow – except on those rare occasions like the day she handed me the keys to the car and set me free to the next county.

I suppose I have never flown as far or as freely as we both hoped I might. Here I am half a century old and still trying to climb out of my inherited nest of fear and soar with the freedom of eagles. And yet, tonight, I get it. I get that she did all she could, within the confines of her life to free the inner tricycle rider in me. More than that, she taught me how to pass the baton to the next rider in the race.

It's my turn to giggle nervously and hand the keys over. This time, the key is to a piece of luggage. The next county has become the next continent so far away that it is in the next day already. Freedom...the gift that keeps on giving. Look what a simple car ride became 35 years later.......

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Love you long and strong, fellow fraidy cat. I'm writing my way back to God. You are so kind to come along for the journey. I don't know what your fraidy cat is, but for today, think about the way you respond to fear by trying to control some circumstance. Give the other folks affected by your fear a little room to breathe. You'll be better, stronger for it...and so will they. Your tiny act of relinquishing control just might flying!

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love: true love has no room for fear, because where fear is, there is pain; and he who is not free from fear is not complete in love.


  1. I struggle with this SO much! I've noticed it even more the past two weeks.... my Florida-born-and-bred children riding their bikes and scooters on these *hills*... and I have to keep biting my tongue not say "be careful!!!" every single time they go by....