I am cleared for take off.

One of the best gifts I’ve gotten in a long time are finally going to get put to use next week during a long road trip –  a dozen balsa wood gliders.

Back forever ago when I was really young, in the days before pong, I loved getting my hands on a balsa wood plane. I could pass a lot of time, if there weren’t enough people around to get a baseball game started, by fooling with a glider. I’d move the wing and try to get it to fly further. Sometimes I’d launch it from a tree, or open my window and try to curve it around that tree.

If only that tree wasn’t there. What if the yard was flatter? If only, that last one would still be flying. Those buildings downtown would be great places to launch a plane from, but I wouldn’t be able to run fast enough to get my plane back. What about that bridge? Come on, when’s the last time Mom let you near the edge of a bridge?

Then there was that car trip, when it hit me.

There, in the back seat, I’ve gone as far as I can with irritating my little brother. I don’t want to read. I’m staring out of the window. God, we’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s no cities in these mountains, what do people do here? Scenic overlook ahead, overlooking what? There’s nothing here. Oh wow, we’re up high. If only I had a glider I’d…

There were more car trips than I can remember, always with someone waiting for us at the end. The times when we stopped at one of the overlooks were the times I forgot to pack a glider. When I had one, we had to make good time to get where we were headed in time.

Today I drive, and I pack my own bag. Usually there’s someone or something waiting at the other end. I make a much better allowance now that I’m working full time. Cleaning my room and taking out the trash never paid well. I can now afford a glider when I want one, but I usually forget. When I remember, they’re not really easy to find in the store. But when I drive past an overlook, I look and smile. One of these days.

I got a dozen balsa gliders at Christmas. Next week, I’ll be traveling through the mountains.

At a scenic overlook somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I will step up to the rail. I’ll turn my cap backward and take off my glasses. I’ll let one of the gliders fly. I’ll have to put my glasses back on; I’m 47 and the glider will get blurry quickly. It will go and go. In a town, one mile and forty years away it will land in a yard.

I’m looking at you, West Virginia.


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