As with most kids I had very early memories of flying. “Up, up and away” was a phrase actually stolen from me by DC Comics, I believe: at least, I can recall this enthusiastic proclamation when sending various items aloft (such as the wooden tie-shoe toy that successfully brought the overhead light fixture raining down upon us in a satisfying shower of glittery glass before the Parental Units’ screams began, as usual disrupting the entire glorious display).
The problem was: I equated ‘jump’ as being the introductory baby steps of ‘fly’. I fully expected that the schoolyard routine of exercising via leaping into the air would soon be accompanied by actual flight instruction – and was duly disappointed when said directions did not evolve. (As usual, school did not live up to my expectations and high – if you will – standards!)
Determined to take matters into my own hands, I assembled the (obvious) requirements for Personal Flight based on a combination of cartoons, comics, and innuendo.
1. Cape. NO real superhero has ever gained flight without it. I therefore postulated that the Cape indeed was a Lift Feature designed to capture air underneath and (contrary to Mom’s popular theory about wardrobe and style) was a actually a key to maintaining flight. Why Mom was so puzzled at my early insistence that a Cape be part of my wardrobe, I had NO clue. And I wasn’t about to spoil things by involving a Critical Adult in my thought process. (Let her continue to muse on ‘Halloween’, something she could readily get her sewing machine around, and leave the loftier Science of Flight to moi!)
2. Boots. Essential for soft landings, boots also looked cool. I mean, if one were to be flying around, Cool Boots would be the most visible body part from below. KEDS just wouldn’t make it. (Mom thought this Halloween costume thingie was “getting expensive”, but I knew better: nobody can fly in dorky shoes….Chalk up one for inspirational costuming and pre-flight savvy.
3. Failsafe landing pad. Essential for the beginner, a relatively failsafe landing pad was required for those initial bungles. Greedy Mom rejected my suggestion of moving my bed’s mattress into the back yard, so I had to improvise with Items At Hand on a day Teen BabySitter was ensconced in front of The Tube. Since the softest, largest portables I could locate included Mom’s Never-Used Full-Length Fur Coat (I understand she was ‘saving it’ – but, for WHAT? It was as puzzling as the uneaten chocolates…), a mysterious Santa Suit found stuffed up in the attic (one could only conjecture that Dad had caught Santa and tossed his nude butt outta da house last Xmas), sleeping bags (equally mysterious, as we NEVER camped), and every pillow I could get my paws on without Teen BS noticing, it was quite the haul.
At last, I was ready to fly! (No helmets – those hadn’t been invented yet.)
The landing pad was constructed below the back porch and I was to take my first flight off the railing.
But soft – SIS wanted involvement. The logic was irrefutable: smaller and lighter, she was the more obvious candidate for the First Flight. Admittedly, the cape and boots I had wrangled from Mom were a leetle big on her. (Ok, a LOT big.) But the ‘smaller and lighter’ piece couldn’t be denied and I was more interested in ensuring success than in hogging the scouting badge for First Flight.
So I positioned her on the railing – at which point, suddenly fearful of the 12-foot drop before takeoff, the little chicken began squawking. Loudly.
Now, apparently I had developed somewhat of a Reputation in my neighborhood. I have NO idea why, but that’s the way of it. Any bit of noise and the nosy neighbors were at their back windows ready to pounce. And Sis was – well, ‘screaming’ would be an appropriate descriptor as she ignored my shouted encouragements to “JUST JUMP!”
5 back windows shot up simultaneously with all manner of adult hollering injected into the breezy summer afternoon. Sis (thereafter nicknamed “Flightless Bird”) hopped down and ran into the house, still screaming, to involve the Teen BS in what can only be described as unfair accusations founded in mis-information, outright lies, and a plethora of tattling.
There was no flight.
Later, there were Parental Lectures on everything from Protecting Your Little Sister and Filching Mink to Attic Snooping and the Impossibility of Personal Flight. I remained adamant about my innocence in the matter much as any good scientist would; but a subsequent combo of spanking and chocolate deprivation generally convinced me that I would not be party to any flight plans in the immediate future (…and if anyone wonders why I didn’t become a scientist, I attribute my lack of career direction frankly to these two common factors: Spanking and Early Chocolate Deprivation Techniques.)
With such an attitude, it’s a wonder Wilbur and Orville ever made it off the ground!