Thursday, May 23, 2013


Monday night, the boys, Clem and I left Elise with three photographers on the sidewalk in front of a colossal mansion in a leafy DC neighborhood tucked equidistant from Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Logan Circle.

Tomorrow morning we will start out early to fetch her. I am anxious to hear her stories of what transpired in between as I am sure she is equally anxious to hear of our own adventures, as mundane as they may be.

I knew after three days of playing inside or at our apartment complex's playground all needed some new scenery, so earlier this evening, I took everyone to Gravelly Point Park, perched at the foot of the Reagan airport runways.

On the way there, as we drove east on 66, I saw people hanging American flags from the pedestrian overpasses and, as I noticed that we were sharing the freeway with an unusually high amount of Harley Davidsons, I reminded the boys that this weekend--Memorial Day weekend--Rolling Thunder would be coming through. Every Memorial Day, squadrons of Harleys parade into the city. I was reminded of the last time we were in DC--in 2010 in Ballston--when we could lie in bed and listen to the motorcycles rumble by below us like passing thunderheads.

As I told the boys about it, I choked up. It seems that any recollection that evokes Ballston brings back a wave of emotion. I continue to underestimate how emotionally turbulent that time of our lives was, a time charged with emotions.

We passed by Arlington National Cemetery and American flags had been planted at the base of every tombstone.

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as we pulled into the park's parking lot it started to rain. This, just after Elise and I had talked on the phone and both had commented that, despite forecasts of a 90% chance of rain this afternoon, we had yet to see a drop. I put the tailgate up on the minivan, and all sought shelter beneath, only to discover that the back of our car was faced into the wind, and our make-shift shelter wasn't doing us any good. So, I closed the tailgate on Sam and Peter, put Clementine into my lap, and pulled the car out of one space and into another, facing the other way. I think it was Clementine's first time behind a steering wheel. It was definitely the highlight of her afternoon.

Ironically, just as I had completed this maneuver, the sun came out. We spotted a rainbow over the Potomac, then all piled out of the trunk to get a better look at the landing planes that weaved back and forth like drunken sailors in the sky before settling on a heading and making a beeline for the runway.

The jet engines of the first plane that took off threw up swirling mists of water. Pete cackled in the same way he does when he hears a Lightning McQueen song, and I knew I had achieved what I had set out to do by getting out of the house.

We met what I guess you would call a plane-watcher. He kindly gave the boys vintage airplane postcards in 4 1/8 inch x 9 1/2 inch plain white envelopes sealed closed with a piece of transparent scotch tape. He wore shorts that only reached mid-thigh but compensated with white tube socks that reached mid-calf, and spotless albino-white Reeboks. He sported a three-ring spiral notebook with a diagram of the DCA runways and departure and arrival charts in one hand and a Radio Shack handheld radio tuned to the DCA control tower frequency in the other. He had a digital camera with a telephoto lens dangling phallic-like around his neck.

He could tell us where every plane that took off was headed. He identified the Boston and LaGuardia shuttles. United ert Denver, Alaska Airlines ert Portland, and American ert Chicago. He could tell us when there were planes over the Potomac coming in to land before we could even see them. He could tell us when a propeller plane from Charleston, West Virginia was going to land on the other runway, and when a Coast Guard plane was coming in for a landing. He could tell us how loud each plane was going to be upon take-off before it even taxied onto the runway (the American planes were always the loudest, and Sam told me he could hear them in his heartbeat). He knew which planes had been waiting to take-off the longest, and he held his radio out for Sam and Peter to hear the tower declare, "Flight xxxx Your Clear for Take-Off!" He seemed to get as big a thrill upon hearing those words as either Sam or Pete did.

I was dying to know his story. He asked us if we would be coming back, clearly yearning for company. He told us he was out here three to four times a week. Had he at one time dreams of becoming a commercial pilot, but for reasons unknown failed to reach his goal? It is easy for me to get into the heads of others, and as I would go home to a maelstrom of activity...dinners to finish, bottles to drink, bathes to give, babies to put to bed, dishes to wash, stories to read....where would he go?

What would he do with all those pictures of airplanes he took? For the same reason I don't understand why people take pictures of animals at the zoo (I figure, National Geographic is going to take a much better picture of a herd of springbok than I ever could), I couldn't understand why someone would need so many pictures of airplanes.

After an hour and much resistance, we started home.

No comments: