Unscheduled Departures


My oldest son’s current obsession is aviation. Actually it’s been an interest for while: at first he simply collected die-cast airplane models and left doodles of aircraft everywhere, but then he began watching videos and reading books, insisting on multiple trips to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museums, and begging to go on long-distance trips just to ride in the airplane. (When I traveled to England with my niece last summer, the only thing he wanted to know about was Heathrow Airport.) As we are within an hour’s drive of three different international airports (a perk of living in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area), planes regularly fly overhead. They’re at an altitude high enough that I just think “airplane” when I see one skimming between the clouds, but my son and his similarly-minded friend can name the model and carrier, and, with an app, tell you its origin and destination. Recently, I’ve been driving them both to airports to meet up with other plane spotters, who gather to take photographs, compare life lists (they’re like serious birdwatchers), and speak in aviation techno-tongue (a new language). While I do admire the beauty of a well designed machine, spending my weekends in a field breathing in airplane fumes (did I ever mention I used to get horribly airsick?) is not my idea of leisure. It’s just parental duty. Friendships are new and fragile things for my son, and I feel bound to nurture them as I’m able. But all of this has left me with less time to meander the Monocacy, picking up trash and allowing my mind to wander with my feet.


My dogs are my only willing companions these days, but my oldest, Poppy, has slowed down significantly this summer. While there was a time when I couldn’t do enough to exhaust her, now there are days when I pick up her leash and she just looks up at me, head between her paws, and sighs. Or we walk out the front door and she immediately slides down onto her belly, claiming the porch for her own, and refuses to come back in for hours. Other days, like this morning, she pulls herself up, wags her tail mildly as I fasten her harness, and totters to the sidewalk behind her overeager friend Rosie and me. For mysterious reasons, Poppy tends to want to walk down the center of the road, and she yearns to visit streets that have never interested her before, but at least a few times a week we make it all the way to the river path, where now the weeds and wildflowers fall in a jumble around us, jostling for the light of the last warm days of the season. And here, as I let her leash go, Poppy smiles.


I think I do, too.

7 thoughts on “Unscheduled Departures

    1. We’ve been looking into various programs for him. He made it to two civil air patrol meetings before getting totally intimidated by the military aspects of the program. The schools seem to want him to be about 2 years older. Is there a specific program you know to recommend?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t have a specific program to recommend for the long term or a career. For the short term, he can fly around the airport with a recreational certificate (he can fly solo at 16) or sport pilot certificate (for 2-seat planes). Check out http://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/learn-to-fly/become-a-pilot-types-of-certificates . Larger aircraft basically fly themselves, so he may look back and realize he had the most fun flying these types of aircraft.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, dear Poppy. I well know how age can reconfigure your pleasures. Sometimes savouring the familiar is way better than exploring the unknown.

    But there’s also the undeniable charm of getting up and out there. That means airplanes, as your son has rightly sussed.


    1. Ironically, when we lived in Minneapolis and Poppy was but a young pup, we regularly visited a dog park that was right next to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport runways. The rumor was that the airport officials liked the arrangement because the dogs kept the geese away. Poppy certainly did her part at the time!

      Liked by 1 person

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