My parents sent a mystery gift that arrived last night. A lamp shade gave away it’s identity, but as I pulled it out of the box, I wondered if it would be a leg lamp, a la A Christmas Story. Nope! It’s still different though! It’s made out of an airplane engine cylinder. I knew my dad had one in his office – a long time pilot, it fit with his decor – but I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it.


Once I talked to my parents, however, my perspective shifted.

Turns out it’s not just any airplane cylinder, but one from my dad’s airplane. A plane that he’s had for years wrapped in a lot of memories.  By extension, the lamp is a piece of him and our family flying history. It’s a unique and lovely reminder every time I see it. It’s actually making me tear up right now as I write this.


We traveled a lot in my dad’s plane as a kid, flying all over the United States. Not a typical way to travel, of course, but we practically grew up at little airports. Dancing outside Hangar 10 at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, sniffing the gardenias outside the front door when they were in bloom. My sister and I danced everywhere in those days. At the gas station, the boat launch, mostly places where we were in transit waiting for our parents. Sometimes I still do that at the gas station, because why not. We lose a lot of things as we get older, pieces of ourselves that we set aside. I love dancing, and though I don’t do it on a team anymore, it brings me joy. Even in my kitchen.


I think that must be how my dad feels about flying.

It’s been a part of him since he was a kid. His dad and uncle were pilots, cousins are pilots, and even my sister soloed shortly after her 18th birthday. Though I never learned to fly when I was younger, I would now. And that’s the first time I’ve ever actualy thought that. Never until this moment. But it is such a piece of my history, my dad, and our family story, it would be satisfying to know what it feels like to command a plane up in the air.


My dad isn’t sick, or especially old – just turned 75! – so it’s not like he’s going anywhere (except for in the plane, of course). But as our parents age, you see things differently. The lamp is reminder of our family history. A passionate dive into what lights you up. For my dad it’s flying. For me it’s dance and learning and encouraging creative play.


And I hope I pass that along to my kids. And others for that matter.


In a funny way, my boys are like my dad as well. Interested in all things mechanical. The lamp fits into our space because of that as well. It looks like a robot of sorts. And, even my husband found that it acts as a musical instruments for as you strum the sides – whatever the pieces are called, as I’m sure they have a name – they make a harp like sound.


My boys appreciated the box more than the lamp when we opened it. Both taking a turn to jump into the packing peanut melee. That made me smile, as it feels as if they are growing up too fast. At least they are still kids. It makes me wonder if my dad could teach them to fly. I know that would take a lot (a lot!) of patience, and they are still young.


I wonder if he could teach me to fly. But then, in his way, he already did.