Astronauts ready? Begin countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…
I remember it so clearly now:
The sun was creeping along the tattered deck. When it reached the tip of my gangly fingers I hopped down the stairs and laid flat on the warm crabgrass by the edge of the farmhouse. I watched the clouds inch by across the blue sky and geese flying in formation overhead, honking as if they were mocking me. There they were, flying high in the sky while my little body lay adjacent to the ground. Stuck.
“What’d ya doing Mei?”
“Nothing, Gran, just looking at the sky”
“At what? Ain’t nothin’ up there but air and birds.”
“I know” I said. I rolled over to my stomach and locked onto her old, faded brown eyes, “I was just thinking that it would be nice to fly like the birds.”
Gran plopped onto her rocker on the deck, “Who says ya can’t?”
“Yah don’t know unless ya try. So, have you ever even tried to fly?”
“Gran, I can’t fly! I’m a person and I don’t have wings!”
“Superman ain’t got no wings from the looks of it and he flies ‘round like a gnat everywhere and stuff…”
“But he’s Superman.”
“And you is a little girl, Captain Obvious”
I rolled my eyes and flopped my back against the ground. I could hear Gran mumbled choice words behind me as she creaked her rocker back and forth in rhythm. Her crackled voice pierced the silence of the late afternoon,
“Instead of just lying there ‘n doing nothing, why don’t you go on and get the mail for me.”
I let out a huge sigh, lifted myself up off the ground, and started down the long drive. Her mailbox was so far away that it took someone at least 40 minutes just to walk there and back. However, I enjoyed running to make it go by faster and release some pent up energy I stored like a winter squirrel, as Gran would say.
With the farmhouse out of sight, I began with a slow jog. Then it picked up to a slow run. When I was fully running down the gravel drive, I suddenly remembered what Gran said about flying. I guess she was right that I never really tried to fly at all. But that was about to change.
I picked up to full speed ahead and ran as fast as I could down the gravel driveway. My feet pounded the ground with each step and my hair flipped around in the wind. I kept running until I could barely feel my feet anymore and I launched my little body into the air with all my strength.
As soon as my feet left the ground, a sense of excitement rose in my gut and for a moment, I was flying. Soaring above the gravel road like a drunk goose. My arms were flailing in the air and my shout of excitement sounded like honk, but it was quickly deflated as the ground smacked a sense of reality back into me.
For a good minute, I let the fact that I just attempted to fly like a bird and failed, unsurprisingly, sink in for a minute. I eventually rose from the ground and assessed the damage. Bleeding, dirty, and shredded clothing. She’s gonna kill me.
It was near sundown by the time I finally limped my way back to the house, with one letter tucked under my arm. However, she didn’t say a word as I came in looking like I was tossed into a blender. She simply put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the hallway cupboard to retrieve her mini first-aid kit.
I was sitting atop the kitchen counter and Gran was on her knees tending to my wounds. As she slowly peeled the backing off each plastic bandage and placed then on my cuts, a smile began to cautiously make its way to the corner of her lips.
“Yeah right! Why you smiling like that?”
“‘Cause, I thought for sure you were gonna fly.” She let out a short snort before she burst into a fit of giggles.
“I did, though!”
“It didn’t last that long, but I did!”
She calmed down and wiped the back of her hand against her glistening forehead. She leaned back on her heels and let out a deep sigh.
“I’m glad you did, honey. It’s tough fightin’ gravity like that”
“Gravity. The thing that’s keeping those scrawny legs of yours planted to the ground.”
I had almost completely forgotten about gravity. All of those physics lectures in class started to flood into my memory. Mr. Montgomery mumbling as he fussed around with the Bill Nye VHS. The classic theme song pouring out of the television and my classmates lips. It was there I had remembered I learned about Space. Where people float rather than sink to the ground.
Gran interrupted my thoughts as she clipped the first aid kit shut. I hopped off the counter, looking more like a patched quilt than a person, and made my way back to the porch. I sat down on the stairs which Gran settled into her creaky rocker. She flipped through a few pages of a book and eventually settled on a starting point.
As we sat there in silence, my eyes never leaving the disappearing horizon, I thought long and hard about my little stunt earlier. When the sun became nothing but an orange glow on the horizon, I turned to Gran,
“Gran, I’m gonna try to fly farther tomorrow.”
Another moment of silence passed.
“And even further the next day. I’m not gonna stop” I said.
“Good. Ya know where to find the first-aid kit.”
Right here in my pocket…Thanks Gran.
…3, 2, 1, Lift Off.