Keeping up with my new husband is either going to give me a serious Dramamine addiction or get me killed.
The other day, at Chris's very enthusiastic suggestion, my younger son Cuyler and I took a ride in a 1942 Waco biplane with an open-air cockpit. Why I agreed to do it, when roller coasters, bridges, heights and wind blowing in my face at five million miles an hour sends my panic disorder to DefCon-4, I don't know, although it may have had something to do with the fact that I was told it would be a "standard" ride. Eight to ten minutes long, straight and level, with no aerobatic maneuvers.
"Easy, peas-y, lemon squeeze-y," my husband cajoled.
"Come on mom. Don't be a chicken," my son chided.
"Just a regular ride, miss," the pilot promised.
He lied. And the whole, terrifying, not to mention nauseating experience, (so awful it topped the eight spectacularly seasick hours I spent on a sailboat heeling its way through the Bahamas on our honeymoon), can only be called "regular" if you consider dipping and turning upside down at 3,000 feet regular. Which I don't.
Heeling, by the way, is sailing speak for when a boat leans over to one side. Way over. To the point where half the boat is up in the air and you're hanging on for dear life while you throw up and pray to God it doesn't blow back at you, and the other half is so far in the water you don't understand why your husband can't stop fussing with his fishing pole and just reach in and grab a damn grouper already!
But I digress, and I apologize. Clearly, I'm still healing from my first experience heeling.
The pilot strapped Cuyler in first, and then me, and handed us each a small leather helmet. ("Oh yeah," my son smirked, plucking at the thin material, "this'll save us.") For a moment, I feared our ebullient airman was rustling up scarves and goggles, too. Great, I thought, we're all going to die, and I'm going to go down dressed like Snoopy.
Thankfully, he stopped with the WWI flying ace accessories and moved on to a full dissertation about the gauges on the dashboard. He said something about one being for altitude, another for speed, and another for our "fuel situation." (He thought he was being funny. I thought pushing him into the propeller would be a real riot.) There were probably other gauges that measured other things, but those are the only ones I can recall. And I might even be making those up because, in all honesty, I was pretty deaf with panic.
But not so deaf that I couldn't hear the pilot encouraging Cuyler to give the thumbs-up if the ride was going well and he wanted more excitement, and Brutus, I mean my son, responding "Will do!"
I'll give him excitement, I thought. I won't use the barf bag the pilot also pointed out.
And then, almost as an aside, the pilot suggested we hold onto the handle bar in front of us. "But only if you want to!" he teased over the noise of the engine. You bet I wanted the handle bar. I also wanted the NFL-quality helmet we foolishly left at home, and the guts to come to my senses and say, "You know, I've changed my mind."
But I didn't.
Instead, I turned and waved to Chris. He was standing there, smiling, as if to say, Look! I've got her up in a biplane! Next stop, skydiving!
This is what comes of marrying a man's man. An adrenaline junkie. A man with boundless energy and zero fear.
In the past year, he's gotten me and Cuyler to race go-karts, climb rock walls and help sail a 40-foot Catamaran through the British Virgin Islands. He's gotten us to snorkel, hike steep cliffs on deserted islands and swim in water hundreds of feet deep. Most recently, he's had us tearing around tempting death on a pair of dirt bikes. He got us to do all this, so my psychiatrist got to double my anxiety medication. Frankly, I think they both own stock in Prozac.
We taxied down the field, from one end to the other, and made a U-turn. Like an idiot, I kept looking for a real live runway, but there wasn't one.
"We're taking off from the grass?" I shouted to Cuy, totally panicked, as we picked up speed.
"Yeah!" he shouted back, smiling.
His handsome face in his Red Baron helmet was the last thing I saw. I grabbed the handle bar, closed my eyes, and imagined the piece that would surely appear on the cover of People after our demise. JOY RIDE TURNS TO TRAGEDY, it would exclaim. And beneath it would be the picture of me and Cuyler, smiling in the summer sun, that Chris snapped seconds before we climbed into the plane.
What can I say? I'm a little melodramatic when faced with death.
Of course Chris didn't take any pictures of me drying my eyes, thanking God, and kissing the ground when we landed.
"It was great!" my son exclaimed, bounding off the plane.
"Sorry about the maneuvers ma'am. I had to. Your husband was watching." The pilot whispered.
"See Susan? Now you can take it off your bucket list!" my husband cheered.
"But it wasn't on my bucket list," I snapped back, sniffling. "It was on yours!"
For the record, my bucket list includes things like "Get a 'spa' pedicure instead of a 'regular' one," "Skip the 'lite' Javachip Frappucino and get a regular, fat-laden, grande-size sucker with whipped cream," and "Host a pole dancing party." You'll note that none of these lofty goals require nausea medication, none of them put me at risk of being killed by peer pressure and all of them can be achieved on land. Which is where I'm staying. At least until Chris pops into my office and says "Lovely, have you ever been zip lining?"
And then I'm totally taking off. But not in a biplane.