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His forehead was red, the yonder was blue.

“I know, I know,” I said, I said.

“What? What do you know?” my father asked.

“I know where that plane came from, where those people have been”

“Where then,” he said, “where have they gone, where have they been?”

“They’ve been to the south. They’ve been to the islands where the pretty girls wear flowers in their hair and straw in their skirts.”

“How do you know that,” he asked, “what made you think that, what made you say that?”

“Well, they’re wearing short-sleeve shirts. And no one wears short-sleeve shirts in the winter.”

And he smiled and he pointed to the sign, and I looked up and the sign said “Bermuda.”

It was our Sunday sport, during the baseball season, when the home team was away. We would pile in the car and drive to the airport and watch the planes come in. No one in my immediate family, as immediate as it was, had ever flown on a plane. But we were very good watchers. Some day, I thought, I would be one of those rich people, one of those fliers, one of those people with money and maids and suitcases full of short- sleeve shirts. A boy could dream.

Then, one day when the winds blew cold and the snow laid heavy, my parents said they had an announcement. We all gathered.

“We are going to Florida to visit Aunt Nan and Uncle Harry,” my father said.

“That’s a long drive,” I said. “You think the car will make it?” The old Dodge was 11 years old and had clearly seen its salad days.”

“We’re not driving,” my father said, “we’re going to fly.”

“In a plane?” I asked.

“In a plane,” he said.

And there it was. With those words, my father announced a new journey. A flight from working class to lower middle class. Only a small distinction, some might say. To us, it was a major life change.

“Where are your parents?” I asked my friend Danny.

“Watching TV,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, “mine are wintering in Florida.”

The day of the flight, they would dress in their finest. My father would wear a tie he only wore to weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. They would walk up a long flight of portable stairs that went right to the door of Eastern Airlines flight 184. Inside, they would sit on cushions and read magazines and drink fresh orange juice and be served, by one of the six smiling stewardesses, a breakfast of pancakes and buttered toast, followed by an apple danish. They were, my parents, for two hours and 20 minutes, royalty.

And it was all free, included in the price of the tickets. They brought as many bags as they wanted. Four for my mother, one for my father. They got their seats three weeks before the flight. They picked them out like carpet samples.

When they returned from their grand adventure, with miniature oranges for all, we met them at the airport. All of us. We waved, we cheered, we cried. Lindbergh didn’t get a warmer welcome.

Then came the porters, lots of porters. Men with big smiles and little bowties, a man for every flier, men to carry your bags from the luggage-go-round to the street, men to wait with your bags while you went to fetch your car.

“I’ll take these for you, sir,” one of the men in bowties said to my father as he tried to wrestle the blue canvas suitcase from his hand.

“That’s OK, chief,” my father said, “I have it.”

“Let the man take the bags,” my mother said. “Why should we schlep?

“If I want to schlep, I’ll schlep,” my father said.

“You’ll get a hernia,” she said.

My father smiled one of his I-just-won-the-argument smiles. “I already have a hernia,” he said. And he dragged the bags behind him to the street, a journey wiser, a dollar richer.

May 2013
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