Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Learning to Fly

I was gabbing away with my friend, Karen, on the telephone yesterday when she interrupted me to describe what she was seeing above her house. She said there was a bird flying high above her rooftop with a small bird on each wing. ON each wing. Taking turns at various intervals, one of the small birds would hoist itself up into the air and fly. Then it would land back on the wing of the larger bird, and the other bird would lift off. She said she'd never seen anything like it before - I never have. She paused in our conversation to point the scene out to her children, but by then the birds were out of sight. She said that when she'd first noticed the flying lesson, she had to stop and focus on what she was seeing: "could that be what I think it is?" is what she asked herself.

Yes, my dear, it was a flying lesson. Mama Bird teaching her little ones to fly. I imagined their "take off" - with each little creature flopping frantically in the air just long enough to get up onto a parental wing. Then up and away they went. I wonder if the little ones were afraid. Probably not. Why not? Because Mama was there: the one who'd always fed them, cared for them, and under whose wings they had sat many a morning and night before flight school began. This was simply the next phase of a life-long journey towards independence.

Even as I listened to her describe the sight, I knew it: That has "blog" written all over it.

Flying lessons.

In the life of a mother, there are flying lessons all the time. Every day. Teaching the little one to latch on to a full breast and drink. To sleep through the night. To sit up. To feed oneself. To walk. To talk. To run. To fall. To get back up. To read and write. To go off to school.

Which brings me to a personal and emotional flying lesson of my own. He's leaving. My son is going off to his first day of school on Monday, August 20th. My eyes and heart overflow even as I write this. Is this what mothers feel like when their children go to school as five-year-olds? I couldn't have done it then - so I didn't do it then. I kept my two precious fledglings here at home, under my wings far longer than most mother hens - and I don't regret one minute of it. The time has come, at least for Daniel, to take him onto my wing - or into my minivan - and let him fly off to school. As a ten-year-old sixth grader! It's about time, I know, but I miss him already.

Still thinking...

Who have my mother birds been? The ones who have lifted me off the ground, taken my high above the rooftops of those who choose to stay earthbound, and encouraged me to spread my wings and fly?

Ms. Roberts - my elementary school music teacher, who took a group of black kids from inner-city Brooklyn into Manhattan to Lincoln Center twice a month for what felt like years to listen to the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. From her, I learned to love classical music, subway travel, and Manhattan.

Loddie - the blind boy at PS 307 who taught me how to see with my heart, how to read with my fingers, and how to be touched by someone who simply wanted to know what I "looked like."

Mr. Woodman - my English teacher when I was a senior in high school. He and his French wife had sailed from Europe to the States the summer before and lived on their sailboat in New York Harbor. I visited them at their house in France three summers later. He, Agnes, and their boisterous neighbors in Le Croisic introduced me to nude beaches, french wine, and small town life in Europe.

The leadership of the Women of Hope Bible Study who sensed something in me that I didn't know was even there. They asked me to be the keynote speaker at a Christmas luncheon nearly ten years ago, and I have been teaching and speaking and leading women's retreats ever since.

There isn't room to include all the Political Science, English, Literature, Psychology, and Spanish professors at Williams and Wesleyan who challenged me to speak with my own voice, to write my own story, and to stand up for what I believed with people I believed in. Nowadays there are friends like Maureen, Ale, Kate, Jill, Lisa, Nancy, Karen, Michele, Virginia, Leonie, Kristiana, and so many others who encourage me to keep writing, to keep spilling my thoughts, words, and questions all over everyone who will listen. There are too many supporters to name one-by-one, but just enough to keep me writing and thinking and blogging --> and flying!

I cannot leave out Steve, my generous, hard-working, longsuffering husband - who constantly encourages me to travel, to read, to write, to live this wild and crazy life I long for to the fullest. Years ago when the movie "Beaches" came out, I wept at the end, not only because of the death of one of the characters, but also because of the theme song. Steve embodies every line in that song: He truly is The Wind Beneath My Wings. Far more frequently than I care to admit publicly, I moan and groan and complain because I feel land- and soul-locked here in South Charlotte. I dream and scheme and find every excuse to leave home for various lengths of time, and all he ever does is say, "Go for it." Thank you, Steve.

Bette Midler sang it so well:
"It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I have it all here in my heart

Now I ask myself, daily I ask myself,
who will I carry on my wings?
Whose journey toward freedom will I encourage and enable?
It's time for me to soar again, but this time with
baby birds, flight students in tow.
I suppose I'd better start with my own two children.
Off I go for some "mother hen - baby chicks" time.

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