Monday, July 18, 2011

Touching the Face of God, With My New Carry-On Bag at My Feet

Two days ago, I purchased a snazzy new navy blue faux alligator carry-on bag for my trip out to AZ this morning with my husband. (I actually wrote this post Monday night, in case this Tuesday morning proved too hectic for blogging, so that all I'd have to do is push the "publish post" button. Wow, this has become an addictive little habit. Anyway...) I wanted something smaller and easier to manage than my trusty pink roller bag, which is the greatest suitcase in the world for longer trips but a tad big for a short one. We are only going away for two overnights this time, so I don't need to bring too many changes of clothes. And since it's about as hot as the surface of the sun out there in the Southwest, everything I'm packing is very lightweight and takes up almost no space in a suitcase. I thought it might be handy to have a bag that is perfect for this sort of trip, one that I should be able to slide right under the seat in front of me. There's nothing I hate more than carrying my pink bag down that crowded aisle and trying to hoist it up and stuff it into an overhead bin when the plane is jam-packed and people are waiting impatiently behind me. If I'm going to travel by airplane--which, as you know, I'd rather not have to do--at least I can make the process more bearable by having the right type of bag for every kind of excursion.

I found this little beauty at T.J. Maxx, the greatest store on earth. It was exactly the bag for which I'd been keeping an eye open the past few months, and I fell in love with it immediately. It looks almost like a giant purse, but it's got wheels and a long retractable handle, too, just like a regular suitcase. At first, I balked at the price tag: $39.99! How do these people sleep at night?! (I always have to think hard about making any purchase that exceeds $20.) But then I saw that it was a designer bag with its original price tag on it, and the suggested retail price was $320! "Who in his right mind," I thought, "would pay $320 for a little bag, even one as cute as this one?" But I also thought, "Hey, $39.99 is a real bargain! SOLD!" (As my husband would say, I would have lost money if I hadn't bought it.)

When my #4 son--the one we're flying out to see today, to attend his graduation from Military Intelligence school--called that night, I told him all about my new bag. (I'm pretty sure that half the time, my husband and my sons tune me out when I babble on about things like T.J. Maxx finds; but they at least pretend to be interested.) When I told him it was made of faux alligator, he said, "Ooo, Mom, very chic." That just tickled my funny bone. And it made me even more excited to pack up my chic little carry-on bag and jet out to see this funny boy whom I've been missing for the past four months.

I thought this fashion-forward alligator bag was all I was going to talk about in this post, but then one of our lovely nieces, a soon-to-be fellow pilot, did the nicest thing for my pilot husband. I couldn't wait until I get back from this trip on Thursday to share it.

I may not have mentioned this before, but I am surrounded by pilots in my family. My oldest son is currently a Chinook helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. My husband was a Naval Aviator who flew A-7's and then F-18 fighter jets for about eight years, and for the past 23 years he has been a commercial airline pilot. He followed in the footsteps of his own father, who did a stint as a Naval Aviator in the waning days of the Korean War before entering the civilian world to run a family dairy business and raise eight children. We have a brother-in-law who is a retired Air Force pilot and now flies for an airline. One of my husband's younger brothers followed the same career path he did (going from Naval Aviator to commercial airline pilot)--and not only that, this brother's father-in-law was a career airline pilot, his wife was a flight attendant before she became a full-time mom, and his wife's brother is an airline pilot. And now, his second oldest daughter--his little girl!--is about to earn her aviator's wings and become a Navy helicopter pilot! (You'd think with all these aviation nuts around me, I'd think flying was the coolest thing in the world! Well actually, I do think it's a cool thing to do...but only for other people.)

We are so proud of this niece of ours: she's a funny, energetic, competent, driven, absolutely stunning blonde beauty with sky blue eyes and a dazzling smile, and we have no doubt that she will make her mark in the male-dominated world of Naval Aviation. Just yesterday, my husband received a package from this niece that included a polo shirt with aviator's wings embroidered on it (which is much more macho than a preppy little alligator or polo player, let me tell you!). She also sent her uncle a plaque decorated with a copy of "High Flight," a favorite poem of his--and undoubtedly a favorite of all military pilots. (It is really quite beautiful, so I thought I'd add it to this post. If you didn't stop to read it yet, you really should.) We used to have a large framed poster of this poem hanging in our house, but it got wrinkled and torn during a move and we haven't had it displayed for awhile. My husband is absolutely thrilled to have another copy to put up with all of his other Navy memorabilia, on what folks in our Navy days used to call the "I love me wall."

This high-flying niece is not only a very accomplished young lady; she's thoughtful and loving as well (and may have earned favorite niece status with her uncle, at least for the time being). Congratulations, L, on your great achievement! You've worked hard, and you've earned those wings! And thanks for thinking of your uncle. Your gifts touched him beyond words.

Well, I'm going off into the wild blue yonder once again, flying on a wing and a prayer, slipping "the surly bonds of earth" to touch the face of God...with my chic new alligator carry-on bag at my feet. Wish me luck!

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