Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
– John Gillespie Magee, Jr
The sound was low and it carried lightly across the aisle. It was the echo of children laughing and the flow of one boy splashing behind the waves of his brother. The video played across the glass screen, a small window held warm in loving hands beneath tired eyes and the gentle roar of engines, peering into mirth now past and the moments left to linger.
There were no awards or milestones, no unexpected need to clinch the gut from fear of laughter ripping it apart. It was just a video of two small kids jumping into cool, clean waters, over and over, a loop of innocence still playing despite the boys now dry and jumping through the elsewhere. The woman watched it with the patience of a saint and the love of a grandmother. And when it ended she watched another video marked different only by the season.
To those behind me it may have seemed that I had far too great an interest in the montage of her lifework, but in truth the images were lost to me aside from the casual glance given when pitches of glee kicked against my eardrum or the sudden flick of her wrist drew me there. Instead, I observed her like a time machine—a white-haired apparition of what should be. She watched video after video of her grandchildren, and I watched her soak it all in to be squeezed and cherished like a sponge saving memories for those days grown dry and far from smiles.
It was as close to my mother as I will ever be, and when the woman finished her viewing I shifted mine, floating through the heavens some 30,000 feet above the ground with thoughts to think and a ticket for my baggage—a loop of love bated on my breath, alive, and always playing.