I have entered the aisle seat phase of my life.
There was a two-year period of my childhood, between ages six and eight, that I took a flurry of long international flights. Just like exposing a puppy to noises at the right stage of development, it made me into a lifelong seasoned traveler.
It also enthralled me with the sky. I always finagled the window seat, somehow, all big sad brown eyes and eagerness. Once I’d won it, I’d rest my forehead on the plastic inside cover of the window and watch. I made up entire stories of life on the clouds involving angels and lots of jumping, trampoline-like, from puffy giant to neighboring puffy giant. They were so real I physically ached to touch them up in that beaming, sun-filled place where heaven was real. I knew just how cottony and wonderful they’d be. When we descended through them into gray real world, I looked up and longed to be among them again.
I had forgotten that for decades, probably, until recently I had to book my whirlwind book tour from Newark to Cleveland to L.A. to San Diego and back home. Due to the many twists and turns of my schedule I had to book more than one connecting flight and pick seats on many different planes.
It was then I realized I am in the aisle-seat portion of my life.
As I chose my position on the planes carefully, the pattern emerged. When faced with the option to sit closer to the front or sit by the aisle, aisle won every time. What was is about the aisle seats, I wondered, when I’d cut my teeth on charming strangers into letting me take their window seats?
Convenience, I realized. Easy escape. No asking strangers to get up in case I want to stretch my legs or use the bathroom.
I felt like I was letting the six-year-old dreamer in me down. But life is filled with such evolutions, I suppose. I now take the fast route instead of the scenic one. I move the cup away from the edge of the table because I’ve seen enough fall off. I haven’t been six years old for nearly four decades.
The trick is not in staying young because it’s both impossible and ill-advised. I can’t deny all the practical things I’ve learned along the way. But I can remember the wonder and majesty in seeing things anew. And glimpse past the little kid at the window at my old friends, the clouds.