Time to fly and take in the scenery

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My nephew was due to graduate, so I began the push for plane tickets.

“Fly,” I urged my parents, knowing that such a thing was about as likely as correcting a receding hairline by eating diatomaceous earth (heard that one?).

My favorite pair of octogenarians just smiled that smile that parents give their children at this stage of life. They had other plans, they assured me, plans that included scenery and a stop in Houston to see Aunt Rosie. Unfortunately, their plans hinged on a quarter-century-old RV, a top-heavy Toyota Warrior whose protected carpet had only in recent years shed its original plastic covering. I refused to give up.

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“Then take the train. It goes straight to Arizona. Straight there, with all the scenery.”

My parents smiled again and waved my concerns away, but by the time they pulled the Warrior out of hiding there were new concerns that couldn’t be waved away — tangible ones like bad tires, contrary A/C and a fridge that had bitten the dust. The final straw — the one that eventually led to me forging a personal phone relationship with Delta Airlines — came in the form of windshield wipers. Non-working windshield wiper motors, to be more specific.

So we’re on the way to the airport in New Orleans, taking in all the scenery that particular stretch of I-55 has to offer (which isn’t much before the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain), when the subject of taxi cabs comes up. Mom just happens to mention that Wesson had one when she was a teenager.

“Are you sure, Mom?”  I glance back her. “In Wesson?”

“Well, yes,” she says, like it’s common knowledge. “Rode it once when I came home from business college and nobody was there to meet me at the bus stop.”

I am fascinated.

That’s when Mom punctuates her point with a story involving a law officer and the taxi driver. It ends with someone being shot.

“Jo Ann saw the whole thing,” Mom tells me. I ask her if she thinks Jo Ann would be willing to talk to me about it.

“Not likely,” she answers matter-of-factly. “She died a while back.”

So we travel on, finally reaching the point of no return — security at Concourse D. An official tells me I must watch from a distance, so I do, straining to see as they are wanded. I snap a shot to send to my sister-in-law, who promptly notes “how dressed up Dad is.” Yes, he opted to wear his suit coat rather than pack it.  Eventually they are deemed safe and disappear in search of Gate 13, Tucson bound. That’s when I stop to pray for infrequent flyers who wear hearing aids and forego their allotted carry-ons.

I am feeling the regret of my inability to get the ringer to work on their phone when I notice the jazz singer stationed at the main entrance. I decide a seat near Naydja CoJoe and her band is as good as any I might find to wait for the departed notation to appear on the overhead screen.

The music is loud and Naydja is knock, knock, knocking on wood when some travelers join her on stage. They are on their way home to Charlotte and are clinging recklessly to the last moments of a getaway in the Big Easy. It isn’t pretty. A schoolteacher-type has donned a mint green tutu.

“It’s like thunder, lightning, the way you love me is frightening . . .”

Five of them gather around the microphone for the “knock (knock, knock) on wood, baby” part, but the results aren’t quite the same as when the dreadlocked Naydja was singing solo.

Just before I revisit the pros and cons of purchasing an overpriced box of Junior Mints, my parents call me from on board as instructed. They are fine and ready to fly, Mom assures me, measuring her words like a 50-pound baggage limit. I should have told them phone usage is allowed for a while – I should have told them a great many things – but they are distracted. I say good bye and continue to watch the board to see when they take off.

They eventually do, and somehow Naydja CoJoe and I finish our tasks at Louis Armstrong International at the same time. We’re heading through the breezeway when she asks what I was typing while she was up there singing her heart out. I tell her, leaving out the part about the tutu, and Naydja gives me her card. I promise to send her a copy of this column, but my mind is far away. It’s in the clouds, actually, wondering how the friendly skies are treating Flight 28. And I’m wondering something else, too.

How’s the scenery?

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.