Aside from being stuck in the rear of the aircraft and taking 7 hours to get back from FL to NYC last night– a trip that frequently takes 3 hours from my customary silver elite class seating near the front, I had the most delightful conversation with a 5 year old.
Ashamed, I started the trip with a very nervous outlook—sitting next to a 5 year old with legs dangling and playing a game on her iPad that was making all sorts of arcade noises with each swipe of her finger and her brother, a row in front, doing the same.
As a passenger, I don’t want to step in and suggest to her parents, sitting behind me, she should use headphones so as not to disturb other passengers who are reading, sleeping or writing (like I would be). My address of the situation? I admit was selfish, was to plug in my noise canceling ear buds and separate myself from the realm with good music and my tablet to write away. I did notice my fellow passengers across the aisle turning their heads toward me as if I was the unconscious father, up to my neck with child rearing and farming out my parenting responsibilities to a piece of electronics. I simply smiled back at them—unconsciously.
Once air-born and comfortably seated in my oasis of boundless intergalactic music for writing, I dropped my tray table, married my tablet with its Bluetooth keyboard and began to type, giving life to my protagonist, Nori, who is trying to save an alien civilization. The 5 year old was back on earth and no longer a concern.
My graphical security lock screen caught the 5 year old’s attention and I swear she began to read what I was writing, adding even more pressure on me that I might be assessed critically by a 5 year old.
Shortly into the flight, I received a tap on my shoulder from the 5 year old, so I removed my ear buds and replied,
“Hello there,” I said and beamed her a smile most children can’t resist. “What is your name?”
She beamed a smile back, answered as Samantha and presented me with a crazy loom bracelet, “Here, I made this for you,” she said in a sweet voice that tripped its way through some missing teeth.
I sat speechless, an arrow through my heart, my throat in pain from the gulp of guilt stuck there. I was convinced that this 5 year old was going to be the icing on the cake to an already terrible flying experience. I was so wrong to be nervous.
For the next hour, we spoke. The conversation was anything but child-like as she kept eye contact and taught me some loom stitching. Impressed, I asked her how she learned these complex weaves and she responded with her searching of You-tube, then proceeded to inform me the loom was really just a beginner’s path and real crazy loom makers used their fingers as the loom itself. This demonstration while we chat. She asked me if ‘it is okay to be nervous?’
Such a intangible question and trying to not forget she was 5…“Tell me why you would be nervous?” I asked hoping it was not too philosophical a question.
“Well,” she pondered. “My brother, Jordan in front of me, jumped off of a railing at the tennis court and it was a long drop to the ground and my mother got nervous.”
“In that case, it is okay to be nervous,” I explained—trying to convince myself this was the right approach. “But being nervous of something that has not yet happened (gulp) is not something I think is a good thing.” I gave her pause to absorb this. Satisfied she did, I continued. “It is usually better to wait until something happens—then be nervous, but not before.”
Touché Samantha, and thank you for the lesson. Who is the 5 year old in this conversation?
She continued to loom—wanting to present the pilot with an equally attractive bracelet, engaging me in color choices, stitch patterns and appropriate length. I did manage to teach her how to gauge length by warping her fingers around my wrist, then opening them and using her opened hand as a template. She approved of this new method, but I could not help but feel she was amusing me.
I answered her questions about family, where I lived, did I celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah as she did. We discussed swimming in the rain and wet is wet so you can’t feel it is raining. She asked if I had seen Despicable Me -2 or Frozen, because if I did not she did not want to hand out any spoilers (to that effect).
Another 40 minutes passed, and Samantha asked me how much longer the trip was going to be. I calculated an additional hour before we touched down. She was getting tired now and asked for her sleeping collar from her parents and gladly swapped it for her loom and slipped the collar around her neck and settled back in her chair.
“How do I go to sleep?” she giggled. “I can’t just go to sleep?”
“What is your favorite thing?” I asked
“Unicorns.” Samantha replied through missing teeth.
“Ok,” I said, ”Close your eyes and I will guide you to them. You are in a forrest, walking down a path…,”
Samantha’s eyes sprang open and she giggled, “I can’t sleep with you telling me that. I am going to laugh!”
We then spoke briefly about dreams and how much fun they are. She relayed to me that they are pictures that are really happening. We could have continued upon this favorite thread of mine….
“Do you want to ride a unicorn or not?” I said convincingly.
Samantha nodded with renewed interest and closed her eyes.
“Ahead of you, the path opens into a meadow,” I whispered, her eyes opening just briefly with a smile and I returned the glance reminding her. “There in the meadow are 3 unicorns, but you are presented with a puzzle—if you step out too quickly, you will spook them and they will run off, so you need to move slowly through the meadow moving only when the warm breezes sway the grasses. Keep moving toward them and eventually, they will know you are not there to harm them. Pet them gently until they brush you with their nose and dip down on their front legs, then it will be time to climb up and hold them by the mane….” She was out light a light. Even through a rather nervous landing in fog and a jolting purchase of the wheels on the tarmac. She never moved and I looked closely at the steady rise and fall of her tiny, almost doll sized chest to make sure she was breathing. She never did awake before I had to exit the aircraft, but I did pass onto her parents what a darling little girl she is and to give her my thanks again for the bracelet and most importantly, to remind me what the world looks like through a child’s eyes.
I can’t help but feel I gained the most from that conversation and the lesson she taught me—not to be nervous before I have to. Thank you Samantha, sleep well and I hope you had a good ride on a unicorn.