She was small with flaming red hair, but I had no doubt her backbone was reinforced with stainless steel. We sat at a conference table, the Old Man beside me looking grave and concerned, as appropriate for the situation. I, on the other hand, squirmed with guilt and no doubt my discomfort was apparent on my face.
She of the flaming red hair was the esteemed principal of our local elementary school. She dealt with miscreants and slackers on a daily basis, hundreds of them. Dealing with the parents of just one was a piece of cake. It would seem that our little princess had felt that a certain little boy was not paying her the proper respect, so she pinched him. Hard. Her teacher was horrified. The principal was horrified. The Old Man looked confused and perhaps a little dazed, and I squirmed.
Meanness runs in my family, and this trait has been nurtured and passed on from mothers to daughters for generations. It’s not really a general meanness, but more like an intolerance of that which is annoying, frustrating and illogical — in other words, males.
They say learned behaviors can become genetic over time. At 9 years old, I had not expected Keely to manifest these tendencies until much later in life. However, while hearing Dr. Stainless Steel expound on how this inappropriate behavior can lead to criminal tendencies, I decided it was time to give Keely what is referred to in my family as The Talk. Summarized, it goes like this: Little boys are annoying. They grow up to be annoying big boys, but for some reason girls are drawn to them. We must learn to control our reactions to them, even when faced with most heinous situations (i.e., rude noises, stinky feet, hateful remarks, remote control obsession). When there comes a time when one of this species is less annoying than all others, marry him. Through acceptance and compromise, marital bliss can be achieved.
My mind was focused on my thoughts and not on the lecture at hand until I heard this: “”Keely will start her interschool suspension tomorrow.”" What? Tomorrow? That’s not good. The Old Man and I looked at each other in alarm and communicated in a way that only folks who have lived together for a long time can do. “”Tell her,”" his eyes said. “”No, you do it,”" mine flashed back. Then he turned and ignored me in a way that deserved at least a slap upside the head. Remembering that he is my IA as well as my husband — as well as considering that this issue now affected my enjoyment as well as his — I girded my loins and suggested, “”Perhaps Keely can start her suspension on Monday.”" All heads turned my way.
Plunging ahead, “”She will be flying down to Thomasville, Ga., with us tomorrow.”" Relishing my subject, I gushed, “”It’s the 39th Annual Thomasville Grass Roots Fly-In. We can’t miss that. All our friends will be there!”"
Not to mention that I had polished on my airplane for days. It looked good and needed to be admired by folks who appreciated my efforts. Besides, Keely is pretty good at flying straight and level now. I planned to ignore the child labor laws and require that she fly a portion of our trip while I enjoyed a refreshing beauty nap. Interschool suspension, indeed! What are they thinking?
They think I’m a nut. No understanding dawned on their faces. There was no joy at our ability to fly six tach hours round trip in two Luscombes, 1946 8A for him and a 1948 8E for me. They didn’t understand that in less than 24 hours we would be feasting near the Gulf of Mexico at a restaurant called Crawdaddy’s, the epitome of fine Southern cuisine and, in the process of doing so, we would be jeopardizing our third-class medicals. There will be airplanes beyond measure, the Dekle engine museum, boiled peanuts and old acquaintances renewed. Did they not consider that I may make the finest landing of my life in front of hordes of folks and be declared the greatest Luscombe pilot ever to walk the Earth? Instead, I heard this: “”I understand that Keely’s raising has been rather unusual.”"
Yes, she hangs out at the airport with a bunch of old bums. Mike works as an IT professional with a local bank. As well as having the best computer of any kid in her class, she may learn to land a C-150 with style and grace. Yep, Jimey is old. He’s proud that he is, since it means he lived through several active military tours. Maybe she will learn that flying an airplane made with your own hands is a grand thing. Russ can teach her that the wonderment of flight is still alive in a few places. Model or full scale, he loves them all. Jim is an artist. He bends and shapes aluminum until it takes on the shape of flight. At the airport, he’s a bum. In a downtown metropolitan gallery, he would be a star. Howard, he takes a little airport and tries to hold on to its soul. It’s a losing battle, but he tries nonetheless; a selfless sacrifice where sacrifices are few and far between.
“”This trip will be educational,”" I say. I’m thinking lift, thrust and drag, but the Grande Dame of education has been around more blocks than I can imagine.
“”If all my kids could be so lucky,”" she says.
Deb McFarland is the proud owner of a 1948 Luscombe 8E and part of the “”Front Porch Gang”" at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.