Endless Summer

SHORT FINAL By DEB McFARLAND

Summer officially commands three months on the calendar, but according to Keely’s school calendar, summer only lasts eight weeks, hardly enough time for mind and body to slip gently into summer’s languid rhythms.

This year, I can hardly conjure those memories of simple summer pleasures such as swimming in a pond, bare feet in soft grass and the taste of ice-cold watermelon.

Our summer started in a rush and hasn’t slowed since.

Keely was out of school on Friday and bused off to 4-H camp on Monday. While this put our household in chaos, her departure meant one week of aviation freedom for me, and I am not one to let such an opportunity pass. My husband isn’t either. He finagled his work schedule so he could be near the airport at lunch.

Over our meal, we tried to adjust to the fact that we were eating alone, as a couple, for the first time in quite a while. When we returned to the hangar we pulled out one airplane, an airplane that we, as a flying couple, planned to share. When my Old Man looked askance at me, I knew he wanted to know who would be flying Lester. I simply replied, “Fly me.”

For two hours on that beautiful early June afternoon, I remembered that I fell in love with flying as a passenger, not as a pilot. It was like falling in love all over again. We flew over the hills and valleys of northern Georgia, through skies that were not dimmed with summer’s haze. It was warm, but not hot. The air was smooth, the air clear. It was a day created just for us.

The Old Man had to leave that evening to return to work, but he left me with a smile and the knowledge that for the next three days, Lester would see to it that I was not alone. Counting the two hours Henry put on his tach that Monday afternoon, Lester flew 12 hours that week. I flew when and where the notion struck with a little polishing thrown in between flights. It was a good week, but come Friday morning, I was ready for my girl to be home.

The next week, Keely and I visited my aunt who lives in a small, rural middle Georgia farm town. It was the first time she was exposed to true Southern eccentricity for an extended length of time. She was captivated. We thought about flying down for the trip, but frankly we were hauling too much stuff. The next week was our church revival. Keely wasn’t captivated, but she endured. She did enjoy the eating part of the event, especially the rows of homemade desserts.

The next week found us preparing for the July 4th festivities at JZP. This year, we decided to keep it simple with a bring-a-dish lunch. The Front Porch Gang also donated a new ceiling fan for the porch and an air conditioner for the building. I volunteered to bring some of my homemade barbecue and put together more aviation-themed “goody” bags for any kids who might stop by.

In spite of my best efforts, sometimes simple gets complicated.

A few days before the holiday weekend, my brother called and told me that he and his family were coming to visit. This is not a complication. Well, maybe just a small one. My brother, his wife and their grown kids are great guests and super company. Cleaning the upstairs, which is Keely’s domain in our household, is a complication. I only visit that area of the house when absolutely necessary, and I knew that a deep cleaning would be required to make such a toxic environment safe for other human beings.

Barbecue slow cooked in a labor of love, aviation themed goody bags prepared and house cleaned, July 4th arrived with unheard of crystal-clear skies and cool breezes. My two gallons of barbecue were eaten and the pot was licked clean. A happy well-fed crowd lounged on the front porch as tales of daring or woes of maintenance were bantered around the porch. Banners waved in the breeze, the flag fluttered and snapped — it was a perfect summer day.

After lunch, my family and some of the airport gang retired to the hangar. There I informed my brother that it was his solemn duty, as her uncle, to take my child over to the carnival in town. My brother knows when a child is being dumped on him, and with the memory of juicy Georgia barbecue lingering on his lips, he complied. Once again my Old Man and I found ourselves alone, and we did what comes naturally — we flew. This flight recharged my batteries for July 4th Round Two: airplane rides, dinner and fireworks.

After our soothing flight, the airplane rides began. Henry flew several family members and a few fellow pilots who had not flown in a small taildragger. I visited with other family who stopped by and prepared for a dinner of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Our hangar mates brought lots of fixings for the meal, including a large red juicy watermelon.

Finally, at the end of the day, as we waited for night to fall and the fireworks to begin (which we can see well from our hangar), I had a twinge of memory, a sensation of summers long past. In front of our hangar, facing some of the most beautiful mountains on earth with my feet resting in the grass, I savored a slice of ice-cold watermelon, and realized…Summer had arrived at last.

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.

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