The Girl in the Plane

I have many vivid memories of my early years. Images of my dad’s banjo and how tan his arms looked against his white tee shirt when he played. The Datsun and laying down in the back seat as we went down the road with the 8-track playing the Bee Gees. I remember the garden out back of the tiny two-bedroom house we lived in and cleaning the sweet peas off the vine very early in the mornings before my parents caught me. I remember my little red, white, and blue bike with the training wheels and packing my little suitcase to run away when I was told that the training wheels would be removed. I remember the multicolored carpet made from carpet store samples laid down like tiles on our living room floor. And jumping from the diving board onto my swim instructor’s head at the Y downtown and, jumping on the bed in my cousin’s bedroom and screaming the lyrics

Hot blooded
Chicken sea
I got a fever of a dee dee dee.

Somethin’, somethin’
Hot blooded

I remember nights in my bedroom. I don’t remember what it looked like during the day, but how it looked and felt in the anxieties of falling asleep I clearly remember, along with the prayer and the chorus of the hymn my mom made me repeat right before she closed the door each night.

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Trust and obey
‘Cause there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.

I remember the cat, Babe, named for my dead parakeet, Babe, who was named for my Grandfather. I remember when Babe the cat ate Babe the parakeet’s widow, Jenny. I remember going to the downtown Woolworths with my aunt to buy Jenny for my birthday present the year before Babe the cat ate her, and I remember that we got Babe at the airstrip at the Farm Show grounds.  He had been a stray brought there as a kitten.

The Farm Show holds a huge place in my childhood memories. My Papa was on the board and was always involved in the planning and organization, so we never missed it. We often got to be on the grounds before the show opened and the day everyone was removing their exhibits and trailering their animals. The Farm Show was a staple of my summers, much like our family trips to the Jersey shore.

The Farm Show grounds were next to a small airstrip that was not too far from our little house and even closer to my paternal grandparents’ home. During Farm Show week they put up a booth and sold tickets for show goers to take a flight and get a bird’s eye view of the county. And one summer, before my mother moved us away from there, she worked at the booth at the airstrip, and I got to take a ride.

I don’t remember how I got onto the plane or who the pilot was, but I can’t imagine that I will ever forget the experience.

I got to fly.

How did it all work: the knobs and buttons and yoke? And when we lifted off the ground, I became fascinated and wondered at the magic of it. I wanted to fly the plane, which is no surprise since from a very young age I was known to my family as a back seat driver .

Rather quickly we were over my father’s parents’ home and circled their neighborhood and then the pilot flew back toward the Farm Show and turned to fly over my favorite road in the county.

Benbrook Road is a crazy combination of hills and bends and driving it feels about like riding a roller coaster. It was a childhood thrill to ride down Benbrook Road and it also made me sick every single time. I had a love/hate relationship with Benbrook Road.

Then we flew over old Mr. Henricks’ farm. I knew him from his friendship with my Papa. They bailed hay together, and I often saw Mr. Henricks on his tractor driving down my Papa’s driveway. I had been inside the cinder block butcher shop on Mr. Henrick’s place and seen just what happened to cattle when they left the farm in a trailer.

Then, we headed to Papa’s.

Aerial photo of Papa’s farm that hangs in the author’s home.

Papa’s farm was my favorite place. It was settled at the base of a hill with a spring fed pond and stream running along the front. The long sloping gravel driveway, edged with hay and corn fields, dipped down over the trickling stream to the large yard that surrounded the farmhouse. That long slope ended at a hedge of old-fashioned roses the scent of which was even more stunning than the height and length of the thing. If you turned and went a bit farther, you would come to the barn.

Like many Pennsylvania barns, Papa’s had two stories and was backed into a hill. The dusky lower level with its low ceiling held any and every ancient farm thing all coated in a layer of dust and cobwebs. A single pack of Papa’s cigarettes sat on a floor joist there. The upper level held larger items and old tractor implements, and near to the ceiling high stacks of hay where the farm cats liked to hide their kittens. That barn served as an escape: a castle, a small town, a wild outpost, a magnificent mansion, or whatever else I needed it to be. Even as a teen, when my imagination became filled with angst, the haystacks became a quiet place I could flee to whenever we visited.

In that barn, childhood wonders were stored. And the Cub lawn tractor – I spent many an imaginary summer mile driving – was displaced each fall when papa would press their apples and a barrel would go in the lawn tractor’s spot. The sweet and tang and spice of that cider, that foamed from the barrel tap straight into a jelly jar, has left me just slightly dissatisfied with all others.

That barn and the farm it sat on were a whole world to my small child mind. When I wasn’t there, I wanted to be.

From the sky that day the view was so different. The farm looked like a plastic toy set. As we circled above the tiny miniatures, I noticed my Papa in the garden and there was G’ma at the clothesline. They were even smaller – like little ants. And they must have known that we’d be coming because they waved. And as quickly as we arrived, we flew away again. And I watched it all disappear in the distance.

Former Evangelical homeschool mom and one-time missionary and pastor’s wife, Stephanie Logan, aka Snicklefritz, writes from her life story and four decades of experience in the evangelical movement. Her views and stories are her own.

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