Yesterday morning I boarded a flight for my first business trip in more than two-and-a-half years. And while I was sad to leave my boys behind for a couple of days, there was a certain excitement about the fresh start implicit in this trip. As I neared the end of the jetway I saw the sun glinting off of the silver body of the airplane, through the dingy window of the jetway, and straight into my eyes. It seemed fitting for the moment. I felt bright and shiny.
It made me think about my first flight. I was eleven years old and we were flying to Southern California to visit my aunt and uncle, go to Disneyland, drive up the coast, and experience the wilds of the coast. My excitment for the trip was huge as there were near countless things to look forward to. But my excitment for the flight was particularly intense. Most of my friends had flown somehwere before, so there was the eagerness to shed my self-consciousness at not having done. But in my mind, whether from movies or books or stories from somewhere, flying was a glamorous thing to do. I wore a dress because I couldn’t stomach the thought of not dressing up for my flight. And when we reached the gate area I ran into a friend from summer camp, making me feel very worldly, and our parents swapped seats so that she and I could sit together. It was a big day.
As I made this little trip back in time it dawned on me that none of my sons will have any recollection of their first flight. IEP and SSP were both roughly 10 weeks old when we flew to visit my parents during my maternity leaves. JDP was just shy of his second birthday when he flew home from Korea. They will never remember those moments. Further, they will never remember a time when boarding a flight was something exciting (the flight itself, that is - not just the destination at the other end). It made me a little sad. But then, why should it?
I don’t remember my first ride in a car, and I feel no nostagic hole where that memory should go. I’m sure that when I was about two days old I was loaded up into a car and driven home from the hospital. And I’m sure that I’ve ridden in a car nearly every day since. A car ride doesn’t need to be something exciting for me. Perhaps the same is true of my kids and air travel. Perhaps my sense of loss over a memory that will never exist for them is a bit like someone much older feeling regret that I don’t have memories of my first call on a touch-tone phone. Some things don’t hold the same meaning for one generation as they did for an earlier geneartion.
When you get down to it I think the thing that matters is not the excitement for boarding a plane. What matters is the excitement at a big moment in your life. For me, because I was old enough to have built up a great amount of anticipation around that flight it was a big moment. This morning, because I’m excited about my new job and the opportunity it holds, my first trip with this company was a big moment. As long as my kids still get excited about big moments – anticipate them, relish in them, and never take them for granted – then I think we’re probably doing okay. For me, my first flight was a big moment. For them it wasn’t. But something else will be.