Walking in the Air

“The light is out there… somewhere” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (December 14, 2014).

I imagine a boy on a plane, flying through the night sky, holiday travelers sitting side by side and row by row. Save for a few overhead spotlights shining down on crossword puzzles and magazines, the cabin is dark. The muffled hum of the engines outside lulls the passengers to sleep. The child would not join them. Sugarplums could wait.

He looks around in disbelief: eyes shut, heads bobbed, pages turned. It seems he alone appreciates what could soon dwell on the horizon. It’s just as well, for in the quiet darkness, he feels as if he is the keeper of a great secret. Back at home, he often hides beneath a fort made of blankets and sheets, leaving the adults in their world while disappearing into his own. Such is the cabin now.

He turns to the window and watches. The red strobe on the wing slowly blinks, casting the only light in the dark sky. As he stares, the boy’s mind becomes a metronome, conducting the orchestra’s silent waltz:

On-2-3, Off-2-3, On-2-3, Off-2-3.

He surveys the darkness as he counts, looking for another red light.

It has to be out there. Somewhere. Even if I can’t see it yet. It has to be!

He hopes, prays, and watches.

On-2-3, Off-2-3, On-2-3, Off-2-3.

The window fogs up with breath. The child takes his finger and traces his name backward in the condensation. If he appears now, he’ll know it’s me! Just as quickly, he squeaks the window clean with the side of his hand and refocuses.

The light is out there . . . somewhere. He is out there . . . somewhere . . . flying . . . with me!

The boy gazes.

Some 35,000 feet below, faith is just as strong in a young girl. The house is festive and noisy, but the hour is getting late. Soon it would be time to call the celebrations a night and head home.

“Do you think he’s close, Dad?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Let’s go check!”

With that I follow my daughter out of the house and into the wintry eve. Standing on the sidewalk, we look toward the heavens. The sky is clear and the moon new, giving the stars a chance to shine this holy night.

“Look, Dad! Look! There he is!”

I follow her gaze.

And there it is, a blinking red light making its way across the sky.

I kept time:

On-2-3, Off-2-3, On-2-3, Off-2-3.

My daughter stands transfixed at the awesome sight above her, stunned yet not surprised, in disbelief yet believing. After a magical minute or two, the light fades into the night. She quickly retreats into the house, excited to exclaim the good news.

I simply stand there and smile, thinking to myself, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


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