They Met on a Plane
She was flight attendant back when they were called stewardesses. She wore a Jackie O bouffant and fitted suits. And heels. Always heels. He was on her flight leaving Seattle on a business trip, his flattop as smooth as the deck of an aircraft carrier. She was in the seat behind him during take off. He was reading The Ugly American, placing it strategically beneath his seat so that when the plane lifted off, it would slide back. It worked. She handed him the book, thinking that he wasn’t an ugly American.
She was Canadian and had left a teaching post in Vancouver where the children often weren’t potty trained, really, when they arrived in Kindergarten. The school was poor, crowded and when United recruited, she got in line thinking that she was too young and restless to try and save the world right then. They had weight requirements and a rule that once you married, you left. Single flight attendants were part of the allure of flying in those Mad Men days.
I have her graduation picture from the United training center. The uniforms were crisp, their smiles bright and the lipstick applied with a firm hand. They were ready to fly.
In Chicago, my dad was returning home when he saw the cute stewardess on the ground, searching for something.”Well hello little Miss British Columbia,” was his line. She looked up, recognizing the voice. She was looking for her contact. He got down and helped her. I’m not sure if they ever did find it but against huge odds, they were on the same flight back to Seattle.
He asked her, during the flight, for 5 flight wings to take home to his brothers and sisters. She thought they were probably for his own kids but told him, nonetheless, that he’d have to wait until everyone had deplaned until she could dig them out. It was a lie. She wanted a little more time.
He asked for her phone number to call and thank her for the wings. She thought she’d never hear from him. When she did hear from him and they began dating, his little sister told all her friends in breathless excitement that his brother was dating a stewardess. She wore suits from I Magnin and flew to New York. The little sister arranged to have her friends at the house when the stewardess was over. They all agreed, she was a glamorous creature.
When they got married, my mom stopped flying. Her parting gift was a free flight to Hawaii for her honeymoon. My parents began their married life with a huge bar bill, courtesy of my grandfather, who wasn’t footing the booze bill and generously kept the bar open long after my parents had left. While the bill was tallied my parents caught a flight to Hawaii where they started their married life together and the beginning of a long and happy journey that has lasted over 50 years.