My Italian grandmother was a real character. Everyone in my family has numerous Nana anecdotes, and whenever we get together the stories flow. She’s been gone for over 35 years, but we share these stories over and over again, and we never tire of them.
I plan to tell a few of these stories here, but the first one I want to share is all mine because I was the only one with her at the time.
This is a story that probably shouldn’t be written down. I promised nearly 30 years ago to keep it on the low-down. I don’t think there is any risk in sharing it here, but I will change names to protect reputations. No, this isn’t about sex.
In 1993 a group of my friends and I decided to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to see the Grateful Dead play at the Silver Bowl. We booked a single room at the Circus Circus and shared the cost amongst us. Some of the friends came along for the adventure, but my buddy Dan* and I planned to attend two of the concerts.
I’ve already told you about my scariest flying experience on a turboprop at a small airport in Ohio, but if you haven’t read that and somehow ended up on this anecdote, read that first and come back to this story. We’ll wait.
In 2016 my spouse and I were invited to the wedding of dear friends who live in England. We had just been in England the year before for work, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to attend our friends’ wedding on the Dartmoor, which was being officiated by another close friend.
Flying is not even close to the top of a list of Thing I Like To Do. Flying wasn’t something I or my family did when I was growing up. We drove everywhere. We drove to western Pennsylvania to see my mother’s family. We drove to The Shore — Wildwood, New Jersey to be more precise — to visit my father’s brother’s family. We even drove to Florida a few times to see my paternal grandparents. It was the 70s, and like many American families we drove. There is only one time that I can recall my father flying, and it wasn’t commercially. An old navy buddy of his flew his Cessna from New Jersey to a small airport near our house in Maryland, and took us both on a little excursion. As I remember this story, I honestly can’t recall any other times my father flew.
On the occasions I did get to fly I recall being excited. On rare occasions my mother and I would fly from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA when my father couldn’t go with us; and one of her brothers would pick us up and drive us the rest of the way. There was at least one flight I took alone to visit my paternal grandparents in Florida. I recall enjoying the flights to and from Germany when I was 13 when a school friend named Dirk and I traveled alone to visit his oma in Cologne. I even flew first class one time when my cousin gave me a voucher and I was able to upgrade on a flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.
It wasn’t often, but it also certainly wasn’t something to which I gave much thought. It was novel when I was a kid. Then it stopped being novel, and I can pinpoint when that changed. Not the year, just The Flight that scarred me.
For the record, our small family observes the a la carte menu version of the winter holidays. We draw upon our own cultural backgrounds with a nod to a few others. When it comes to our observations nothing is written in stone, and while I admittedly get a bit frustrated when certain aspects don’t go as planned, that will not happen this year.