The airlines made their way into my life early on. In the 1970’s my mother worked for TWA (Trans World Airlines) in reservations. It allowed us to do a bit of travelling. I took my first transatlantic flight, a trip to London, during those impressionable years.
The day we boarded the plane for that long flight, we dressed in our finest. I donned the new blue and red sweater dress my mother decided I had to have while I stood on a platform in front of floor to ceiling mirrors in the oversized dressing room at Saks Fifth Avenue. The brown suede purse with fringe and silver studs hung over my tiny shoulders. We could hardly afford groceries, but my mother’s taste exceeded her pocketbook.
We sat in first class. I felt rich sitting there by the window seat. The way the pretty, well manicured flight attendants carefully placed white linen napkins in my lap before dinner, delivered hot wash clothes and wine glasses of orange juice when the sun shone through those oval windows again.
Think this memory is why I love the new show Pan Am so much.
I can still remember standing in the center of the pilot’s cabin behind that elusive door, seeing all the buttons, knobs and levers. Realize that kind of experience lies outside the realm of possibility for my kids now.
I carried my own set of wings back to my seat. Metal wings, not plastic and a Colorforms play set that kept me busy for hours. I can still smell the pungent plastic pieces I used to create my own stories on that plastic board.
In college, I worked for Eastern Airlines as a college campus representative. When I took a missions trip to Eastern Europe with my peers, I travelled separately as a standby passenger to save money. My second experience in London would be the first time to be stuck in a foreign country on my own. Due to a high volume of vacation travel, there were no available seats for three months.
Luckily, a nice gentleman in the same predicament taught me how to navigate the underground and found a room for me at a youth hostel. I just remember being frightened, alone and praying hard.
Today as I make my way back to England, I realize things have changed as I board the plane surrounded by people in pajama pants, served by flight attendants that seem tired and lack patience.
I walk the streets of Brompton, sit in Harrod’s over tea and scones, and I realize that my view of travel shifts. Because as I hear people speak a bevy of foreign dialects along busy sidewalks, interact with sales clerks, I am acutely aware that even though time creates culture shifts, our need for Christ remains unchanged.
I look into hollow eyes, pass by those who evade eye contact altogether, and I know that if those ancient stone structures I walk by could talk, they would tell stories of humanity that would change the way we see. How the clothes we wore, the way we did things was different, but the longing for an intimate relationship with the one who created us, knows us best, it lies deep in the soul of all.
We need a Saviour, more than we need anything else.
What is your first long distance travel memory? How have things changed since?