SPECIAL DAY – A KEEPER (Contest Entry # 11)

Special Day – A Keeper

My favorite picture - me and Joe and his Byrd

My favorite picture – me and Joe and his Byrd

by Mary Ellen Thomson

If you just opened this, please read it and “LIKE” as I was late to the Ladies Love Taildraggers contest and need votes…as you roll your eyes..c’mon!!!  I’m desperate…;-)
My story is about the people that are part of my life journey relating to flying.  I have so many memories that lay embedded inside me and like a photo album only I can see the visions that I have created and only I can picture these slots of memories the way, I remember them…I want to share this special day with you.
This year, it came upon me fast, my vacation over Thanksgiving 2013.  For for some reason this time I wanted to have company.  Most of my vacations are me and girly plane flying solo, yet I found myself in a funk this time….being at the airport just wasn’t the same lately.  I knew it would be best if I could spend sometime with my buds as our time together always encompasses laughing, busting on each other, and appreciating the wondrous act of flying. They get my extreme passion, call it an addiction and they understand my excitement for flying, it’s who I am;  My longing to be at our hangar no matter what the weather throws down, this place always seems to wrap her arms around me and I instantly feel at home.
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Bay Bridge

This trip was all Gene’s idea. Gene happens to be my oldest friend, 88 years old, a force of nature who is tough, has great life experiences, great stories and whom I love spending time with. He mentioned he wanted to visit Anne Fichere who lives at Kentmore Island Airport a small grass strip located near Bay Bridge airport and in his great fashion to sway me, he said Anne mentioned me and said she was hoping I might visit again…Gene is smooth tugging on my weakness..“flying”and it took me all of 30 seconds to say “I’d love to take you”. Our pact made we agreed on an early departure from our home base at 07N Bermudian Valley Airpark.

Gene is not as nimble as you and I might be and after a bit of me pushing on his ummm… rump, yes I said rump, contouring his legs around the stick we were set on this cold yet severe clear morning to take to the sky. Headset – check, stick clearance – Gene ” hey – you’re hitting my belly, easy” – kinda check LOL…well suck it in Gene. Yes, I actually said that, and he laughed his great laugh. Lastly, Gene asked for my map, he likes to follow along, so I handed it over and plugged in my tablet with the flight plan and Gene yelled out the time and we took off over a truly amazing morning where just a  slight mist was still laying low over the ground.
Flying with Gene is a good time for me to be reflective, focus on the course, check the amazing beautiful sky, as we are comfortable in our silence, that’s how our friendship seems to flow. Gene, yells out - we’ve been up 42 minutes, “what’s our ground speed”? 81mph Gene, winds are out of the East, as soon as we get around Aberdeen we will gain airspeed, and we sure did, up to 115 mph.. and we were on track to be on time for our lunch date.
Inner Harbor, Md

Inner Harbor, Md

We decided to try to find a few grass steps along the way, Gene has diabetes and his legs bother him quite a bit, this helped him/us to pass the time..Gene would shout out a few markers to look for and we actually found quite a few… must be my lucky passenger.
We landed and taxied right up to Anne’s house… sweet Anne…I was introduced to Anne two years ago when her husband Joe a spry 92 years old had just completed Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 1929 Byrd and Gene was helping to certify the Byrd at the time, he had asked me to fly him down so he could help Joe with the paperwork…..sure I said, twist my arm…..make me fly you.
I can remember vividly how they were so excited to show us the Byrd the first time.  Joe insisted I sit in Anne Lindbergh’s seat..oh I don’t know?…his eyes lite up and the joy of seeing him share his love affair of restoring her over the last 10 years, was captivating and I was truly spellbound…. I mean how unbelievably cool to have a love affair and be able to share his story with us and eventually he would fly her. I was most happy that he was able to complete what he had dreamt about for years before he was called to the heavens in early February…..I can still see him smiling with a twinkle in his eye and telling me again to climb up and sit in her seat…as I slid down into her seat, I could not get over that this Byrd was one of the most beautiful artistic planes I have ever seen…a real genuine piece of history.
Anne Lindbergh and her most telling remark was to believe “if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly in those moments”. 
Inner Harbor, Md

Inner Harbor, Md

It was whispered that perhaps the Byrd was heading to a museum this past summer and Gene mentioned he thought Anne would love a visit, so I called Anne and asked if I could bring a few buds to see her…a resounding YES, please come visit!! In my fashion of always organizing our “boys” flying trips,  I rounded up the troops and it is one of my favorite memories that I treasure, for various personal reasons.
Anne told me that she was planning on being in the Byrd when it arrived in Blakesburg.  The plan was for her to hop in the front seat in Ohio and fly the last leg to Blakesburg with the pilot..,. I said you have tooooooo!!!!  she laughed, I suppose I do, don’t I?
The Byrd took off from Kentmore for the journey to Blakesburg this year and upon reaching Ohio, it ground looped upon landing, thankfully no one was hurt, but the Byrd was damaged… and now she is sitting in a hangar…a project that once again needs to be repaired.
So why are we here today, you might ask? To visit sweet ( just turned 84) Anne and hear the real story about her Byrd… We drove to the marina for lunch, Gene and I had our hunger focused on oysters and Anne shared the story on the Byrd.  Here I was with two people in their 80’s listening quietly to stories of days gone by and memories of their own spilling forward and I am reminded that they were young once with dreams, goals of their own….making me realize that I had this very moment to live and I shouldn’t waste a minute.  This journey for each of us is a one way trip on the train of life and we should live it fully…we each have our own dreams and no one should have to give up anything to forsake their own journey.
When we sit down for lunch, I let our guest order first… she says “I’d really like to have a glass of wine”, but it’s only 11:30am.. my response – go for it! I love the way Anne thinks !!
As we head back to Anne’s house I notice a table with all kinds of goodies…. Anne – I think I need to come back for some of these homemade treats….she insists on bagging up them up and I promised to stay in touch and visit again.
Now it’s time to venture back home our bellies full and I tell Gene of my plan to fly up over the Bay Bridge, over Martin State directly home bound, and truth is he wasn’t too keen on that idea…. That is allot of water he said…AND you know all the engine noises we hear over water…gheez Gene!?!….he had to say that didn’t he…… I remembered the first time I went home this way by someone else’s suggestion… I was nervous, although I would never admit that to him… now it was easy peazy…I told Gene it will be fine. We could almost see China flying home and it didn’t hurt we had a tail wind all the way home….ahhh home base, doesn’t that sound cool rolling off your tongue, when you see out in the distance the tree marks which surround the grass field that house’s my serenity, my barn, my joy where my heart belongs.
This past weekend Gene delivered a thank you note from Anne, along with an invite to return to Kentmore to see her.. it is something I will definitely plan on this Summer…c’mon Summer I have plans..
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I am in awe of many things….Yet the deepness part of my soul is most satisfied sitting above our world in quiet splendor flying.
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