Family is important to me and my husband, and we want our daughter to know her family and its heritage and traditions. So, when my Dad sent me an e-mail announcing the Annual 7 Lakes Airstrip Barbeque, I decided it was time for my daughter to connect with her Southern roots, have some real Southern BBQ and get to know the flying world that was so instrumental in my development. So, I traveled, a single-parent for the trip, cross country with a two-year-old child for a weekend.
The trip got off to a bit of a rough start when she vomited chocolate milk and goldfish crackers in the back seat of the car on the way to the Milwaukee airport. I pulled over at East Troy and used an entire package of baby wipes in the clean-up effort. My daughter seemed confused by what had happened, and after I cleaned her up, she looked at me and said “Thank you Momma.” I hugged her tight as I lifted her into her car seat, not noticing until much later that I would need to buy a new shirt for me as well as her when we got to Milwaukee.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. She napped on the airplane, and only when we started our descent did she look out the window at the cottony white tops of the cumulus clouds. “We’re flying!” Soon we had arrived, travel weary, in Atlanta.
Airport BBQs are community events, with pilots flying in from distant places to reunite with old friends and community members from the surrounding town driving in for good food and fun. At this BBQ I would see my former flying instructor, pilots who watched me grow up as an airport brat, and meet lots of people I didn’t know. Most importantly though, I would see my family: dad, sister, nephews, and my daughter would get to spend time with her Grandpa Arduengo.
It took my daughter about two seconds to have my dad running the requisite laps around her little finger. As many of my Dad’s friends (most of them retired) arrived, she smiled at me. “Lots of Grandpas!” And she charmed them all.
She waved at two biplanes as they made their final approaches and landed on the grass strip behind my dad’s hangar. She spent nearly an hour with my Dad, checking out his airplane, commiserating with him about the bird poop on the plane.
I prepared my daughter’s lunch plate, anxious to see how she would react to her first taste of real Georgia BBQ. She fed her entire lunch, BBQ, bread and beans to my sister’s Cairn terrier, and so did not get one ounce of southern culinary experience. She fed the puppy as her head bounced side to side in rhythm with the band. She seemed to be drinking in the atmosphere the community and the attention her Aunt and Grandpa were lavishing on her. And, for that one day at least, she feasted on family and community, nourishing herself with hugs and smiles all around.
Too soon we boarded a plane in Atlanta, bound for Milwaukee and our return home. Again, my daughter proved herself an amazing, if not seasoned, traveler. As we walked up the jetway from the airplane to the terminal, I had a litany of instructional commentary going: “Stay right in front of me. Move over so people can pass. Keep going forward. Step to the side. Etc.”
People who had other places to go and schedules to keep needed to pass us as we proceeded at pace of a sleepy two-year-old up the jetway.
“Hug the wall.” I instructed. And suddenly, she dropped the handle of her Dora the Explorer rolling back pack, spread her arms wide and gave the wall of the jetway a great big hug and kiss.
“Oh, not literally.” I said as the people behind me burst into laughter.
But that’s the kind of weekend it had been, one spent with family and friends, with music and good food and laughter and hugs. Even hugs enough for the jetway wall at the Milwaukee airport.
© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.