Up in the Air, Junior Bird Men!
An At First Sight Vignette
December 17 is the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
Max Grant's father, Brian, is a former RAF pilot. In this little vignette, he is telling his son about a gift he just received.
The FaceTime call from my dad is a surprise. He doesn't usually call, leaving that duty to mum. I click accept with some trepidation. I blurt out, "What's the matter? Is mum ill?" I'm not even focused on the image of dad on the screen. Instead, my gaze is held at my own visage. Eyebrows crawling up toward my forehead, eyes scrunched with worry, my hands pulling at my hair, I'd look like a clown if anxiety wasn't spilling out of every pore.
"Max. Ca'm yersel'." Dad's Scottish brogue is stronger than usual. "There's no wrong."
I tear my eyes away from the miniature me and focus on the big picture. Instead of dad's face, I see the model of a plane. A biplane. What the—?
"Why are you showing me a model aeroplane?"
"It's a pressie, from yer girl. Marked "not for Christmas. Open on December 17. Arrived yesterday and today's the day. So I opened it."
"Riiiight." Why did Cress send a model plane to dad? And what's the significance of the date?
Cress sashays into the room and plops down next to me on the sofa, dislodging Dorothy and Thorfinn, who had been "helping" me work. They jump down with disgruntled meows, standing a little way off and glaring at us.
A shriek from Cress draws an exclamation of alarm from dad.
"Cressie, love, what's the matter?"
"Nothing." She looks into the screen, a sheepish expression washing over her face. "I'm just excited to see the plane. It looks better than the photo."
"Aye, it's a lovely little thing. Thanks so much."
I shift so that I am turned toward the woman who has made my life so much better in the last few years. "What is this all about?"
"The anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flights. I thought your dad might appreciate a model of their plane."
I purse my lips, ready to let fly a riposte about celebrating British flight being more appropriate, but dad gets in first.
"Thanks ever so, lass. It's a grand gift and will fit in well with the rest of the Postage Stamp plane collection."
Mum pops onto the screen, her head vying for space with dad's. "So thoughtful, golubushka."
Meanwhile, I've walked over to the small wine fridge we keep in the drawing room and pull out a bottle of champers. The sound of the cork popping scares the cats out the room. I walk back to the sofa and hand Cress a glass. "Happy anniversary to Orville and Wilbur." We clink and drink.
Surprisingly, mum and dad seem to have anticipated my action and lift their own glasses. "Slàinte Mhath." Dad takes a sip. "Pozdravlyaiu." Mum sips hers as well.
"May our next toast be in person." Mum smiles.
We smile back. Little do they know that their next surprise is us—at Christmas.
For more information on the Wright Brothers, click here. For a look at the precursors to the Wright Brothers, check out this piece on Mental Floss.