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The Little Red Plane

My friend gave the twins one of those battery-operated airplanes.  You place it in the charger, pull the trigger, and it can go — it claims — 100 feet.  When we left school, the Wolvog asked if we could play with it outside before the rain came.

I agreed, even though my gut told me that it was a terrible idea to play with it outside our house.  But we didn’t have time to go out to a field, and I didn’t think the thing would truly fly that far.  We’d just be careful, choosing a large lot of grass nearby in the neighbourhood.

The first few flights were unspectacular.  The plane took off and then made a sharp nose dive towards the ground.  The neighbourhood kids gathered around to watch — seven of them — and cheer the plane on.

Finally, after watching 3 or 4 times, the Wolvog felt confident enough to charge the plane and pull the trigger on his own.  He aimed it just as I had aimed it, but this time, it took off, soaring high above the fences, weaving in and out of yards, ducking through branches of nearby trees.  The kids ran after it, shrieking, and at one point, I lost sight of it.  My heart sank when I couldn’t find it, and I feared that it had gone into one of our neighbour’s yards.

One of the boys raced away to see if it was in his, and that’s when I saw it — our little red plane stuck on a roof.

I can’t even explain the rage I felt at myself in that moment; to watch the Wolvog’s face as he realized that he wasn’t getting back this plane; that his gift was for all intents and purposes gone forever.  And it was all.my.fault.  Because I didn’t listen to my gut and put my foot down as the adult, explaining that playing with the plane near houses was a terrible idea.  There would have been bitching and moaning, but at least we’d still have the toy.

I rang the neighbour’s doorbell and explained to the teenage boy who answered — 7 children sniffling behind me — that our plane was on their roof and if, by chance, it happened to fall by its own volition during the impending storm, could I come over and get it?  I knew that it would be worthless once wet, but I really needed to get that red plane back.

When we went inside for the day, I kept trekking out to see if the plane was still on the roof.  And it was; this forlorn red toy, perched propeller down against the shingles.  Every time I saw it, I hated myself more.  I spoke with my friend, Amy, explaining my regret, lamenting the lost plane.  The plane became the receptacle for all of my regrets — a long litany of them — all stuffed into this one stupid choice to go with my id instead of my superego.

After I got off the phone, I went outside one last time to check.  It had been two hours since the plane first landed on the roof.  I couldn’t see anything red against the shingles, so I ran backwards, checking from all angles.  I went back in the house and told the twins not to move; I was going back to our neighbour’s place to ask him for the plane.

My poor neighbour, an elderly man who speaks no English, answered the door this time instead of his teenage grandson.  With much pantomiming, making my arms into airplane wings and pointing to red on my shirt, he was able to understand that I wanted the plane, and he lit up, excited to know the origins of the toy.

He led me through his house (and yes, my gut was kicking in again, wondering if this was a good idea to trek through a stranger’s house), and we went into the backyard.  I fully expected to see the plane on the ground beneath the spot on the roof, but it was gone.

He finally conveyed (again, with much pantomiming) that he didn’t know why there was a toy plane in his yard — his grandson, I assume, didn’t share this with him — so he had chucked it over the fence into another neighbour’s yard.  Except it hadn’t landed on the other person’s lawn.  It had become entangled in their satellite dish.

I am a poor judge of distance, but it looked as if I could reach it if I stood on his lawn chair, a fact that I first needed to convey to him via miming since I didn’t know how he felt about me climbing on his chair.  He was, judging by the look on his face, horrified but permissive, and he gasped when I not only climbed onto the chair, but balanced on the thin left arm, in my flip flops, stretching to reach the plane which was only inches from my fingertips.

So I did what any crazed, guilt-addled, regretful woman would do.

I jumped.

In flip flops.

And landed again on the thin, metal arm of the lawn chair.

The red plane in my hand.

After I got back the toy, I tried to introduce myself to this neighbour — he’s someone that I see, but have never spoken to prior to this point — but all he said to me was “you, go.”  Not angry.  Not annoyed.  Just this bemused, “please get the hell out of my house before you do something else dangerous such as run with my elderly wife’s scissors” look and tone.

So I went home with my prize, the little red plane.  No one greeted me like a hero at door.  They just continued to play with their other toys as if nothing miraculous had happened.  But all was right in the world again.

I’m telling this story today because it involves Amy.  And it’s our Bat Mitzvah-versary — the 24th anniversary from the day we both became women.  Oh, and because I was so very annoyed with myself, but it makes for a good story.


1 Esperanza { 05.23.11 at 11:49 am }

I’m glad you got your plane back. Isn’t it interesting how something so small and seemingly insignificant can suddenly represent everything big and important in your life? It’s strange how things have that power over us sometimes. Or how they spark something inside of us that does.

2 Calliope { 05.23.11 at 12:40 pm }

wait – the red plane in this story isn’t like the red sled in Citizen Kane, is it?

3 Kristin { 05.23.11 at 1:33 pm }

It’s not just a good story. It’s a great story…so many layers of meaning. Happy Bat Mitzvah Anniversary to you and Amy.

4 HereWeGoAJen { 05.23.11 at 1:51 pm }

I’m glad you landed smoothly. It is a wonderful story. Happy Bat Mitzvah day!

5 Lut C. { 05.23.11 at 3:09 pm }

Sometimes you just can’t win as a parent.

Happy anniversary of your Bat Mitzvah.

6 Sarah { 05.23.11 at 5:20 pm }

Way to go on getting the toy back! Crazy what we do for these kids, isn’t it? 🙂

7 a { 05.23.11 at 5:41 pm }

You deserve the hero’s welcome – that’s a lot of effort to go through to get a toy back!

8 TasIVFer { 05.23.11 at 7:30 pm }

This is why you need a dog. No matter WHAT you’ve done, you are greeted like Ulysses, *finally* returning home after being away at war for years. (Without all the courting-your-wife stuff.)

9 Amy { 05.23.11 at 8:12 pm }

HAPPY 24TH (geez, seriously?) BAT MITZVERSARY TO MY BAT MITZVAH TWIN! I miss you and love you! And I’m really glad you got the plane back. (And all is again well on my end, too). Love you!

10 Vee { 05.23.11 at 11:53 pm }

Oh it’s a great story!!
Happy Bat Mitzvah-versary!

11 luna { 05.24.11 at 12:14 am }

mine was 29 years ago next week — the same day as baby J’s 2nd birthday party and what was my grandparents’ wedding anniversary.

good for you for persistence.

12 Jamie { 05.24.11 at 9:39 am }

Great story! Thanks for sharing!

13 Heather { 05.24.11 at 2:47 pm }

Love this story. Sounds like something I would do for my kids. Sounds like something a lot of us would do. The love of a mother makes us do amazing things.

14 Rachell (Barrenista) { 05.24.11 at 7:39 pm }

Oh the crazy things we’ll do to make our child(ren) happy again…lol

15 C { 05.25.11 at 10:55 am }

That is quite a story, and quite an adventure for a little plane. Hope the twins will appreciate having it back!

PS- Just wanted to mention that I thoroughly enjoyed your book (I actually reviewed it on my blog last year). Also really enjoyed your interview on “Creating a Family” a few years ago!

16 Anna { 05.26.11 at 3:37 pm }

Well done, the twins might not have noticed your great efforts but you prevented the whole thing becoming something that you berated yourself over and something that might bother them at another time. I have a few memories of lost toy hunts, not pretty. Anniversary congratulations to you and Amy.

17 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 05.27.11 at 1:43 am }

I disagree with Tas. You don’t need a dog. You need a ladder.

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