The Liberty Gazette
June 30, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: My mother stepped off the jet way and made her way through the airport maze where I was waiting eagerly to greet her.
"How was your flight?" I asked. Everyone always asks that first.
Mom isn’t a fan of regional airlines. She calls them "small planes". Funny, she’s flown with me in our plane, which is significantly smaller than a regional airliner. I think she is more comfortable in our four-seater simply because she’s with me, or us, however the case may be.
"The whole plane shakes and rattles," she answered with the disgust that would have made the CEO of that airline shrink into nothingness had he or she been Mom’s child. And who could blame her? The overhead bins chattered annoyingly and shuddered the whole trip, she said, and she could feel the plane’s engine vibrations right through her seat, as though she were the gremlin riding outside on the jet’s wings in that 1963 episode of Twilight Zone.
"What were you flying?" I asked, hoping to find a way to explain it to her satisfaction. After all, Mom likes to be curious – she says the cure for boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure for curiosity – and would, I presumed, most certainly have listened to the passenger briefing and looked at the safety card in the seatback on front of her. There on the card she would have seen what kind of plane she was in; during the briefing she would have heard the flight attendant mention the make and model.
She probably did do those things, read and listen, because Mom likes to learn things. What she didn’t do though was remember the alpha-numeric sequence that identified her carriage. She may have heard something like EMB145 that day, or B737-700 on another flight another day. But to her those are just meaningless sets of letters and numbers that are only important for the pilots to know. And probably the mechanics, too.
"It was the kind of plane that has those wings that bend upward at the ends," she replied, pushing her arms slightly outward, bending back at the wrists with her palms faced away from her.
"Winglets," I replied. "Those are winglets, and they are on a lot of different kinds of airplanes." As the words came out I worried that I might have sounded condescending, which would be a horrible way to treat my mom. "They help aerodynamically and the result is fuel conservation," I hurried to add in a soft tone in case she might be thinking my last words were a bit snippy. I smiled. "But most people don’t even notice them."
My mom is smart, and she’s not a pilot or engineer, so these aren’t the kinds of things she would have come across. Nor are the purposeful design of winglets anything she likely remembers today, because like alpha-numeric airplane model codes, none of that is what she’s retaining for that "someday" that might happen, when, if, she ever loses mobility and can no longer go out for adventures of her own.
"My mind is my museum," she told me several years ago, "and I am collecting beautiful memories for my museum so that one day if that is all I have, I will have plenty."
I am certain winglets won’t make the cut in Mom’s museum, and I am just as certain that among the thousands of beautiful things there will be poetry and song, laughter and friends, walks with dogs, sunshine, flowers, pearls, and family. And maybe the closest thing to winglets will be a lovely flowing gown she once wore while standing in a Spring breeze.