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The day I co-piloted and flew a plane at three years old

I remember the day my favorite uncle picked me up at daycare to go flying. Originally I thought I was four, but a quick google search on a historical event and a phone call to my Dad tonight confirms I was only three. So, this was 1985. Must have been spring, or could have been fall, otherwise my mom would have been home with me since she had summers off as a teacher.

1980s daycare in Madison, Wisconsin
Me at my daycare

I was playing with a big red firetruck in the driveway of the daycare. It was one of those large ones a kid can sit in and drive. I always wanted a hot pink Barbie car like it growing up but we never had anything like that, too expensive. I must have thought this was the next best thing. (My oldest sister once promised to buy me one if I didn’t talk in the car for a whole day on a road trip we took out west. I did what she said but never got the Barbie car. I still remind her of this.)

This day in 1985, I was leaving early for a special adventure with my mom’s oldest brother who was a pilot. (He served in the United States Air Force as a rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam.) He would often go flying for fun in small two seat-er planes at our nearby airport in Madison, Wisconsin. I admired him so much and remember being so proud and excited when I learned he was going to take me flying, just me and him.

For some reason that red fire truck and him walking up the driveway sticks in my mind. I must have been so excited to be going up flying with him. I had to leave one of the coolest toys for the other kids to play with, but must have felt like I had other things to do. Bye bye firetruck. Hello airplane!

1980s wooden toy airplane
My toy airplane

Tonight I’m looking at a small wooden toy bi-plane. It was a little dusty when I pulled it out of the curio cabinet I keep most of my little treasures in. I couldn’t start writing about it and my memories until I took a cotton Q-tip out of my bathroom and carefully wiped it clean. Ahh, that’s better. It’s a little wobbly and loose, but the propeller still moves. It’s the inspiration for my nostalgic story here.

Growing up, I wanted to be a pilot like my uncle. When he took me flying that day it was the first time I had ever been in a plane that I can remember. (My parents took me to New Jersey when I was an infant to visit my grandparents but I don’t remember that) Although I’m sure at the time I was so impressed with how small everything got when we were up in the sky, the thing I remember most was when he let me take the steering wheel and control the plane! I got to pull the wheel out and push it in, which made the plane go up and down. (I think I’ve got that right, if not, it’s just the opposite.)

That feeling of being in control of such a large thing like a plane at only three years old I believe has shaped my perspective on life. I realized in that moment how I could make a choice, take an action, and then see and feel a reaction immediately. It made me feel unafraid to take risks, and to be grateful for having guidance and mentors like my uncle that offered me opportunities like this. I couldn’t believe he simply let me try. Even for less than 15 seconds, it was enough to stick in my mind as a really cool experience I’ll never forget. It’s what I think of when I look at this toy airplane.

Whenever I’d see my uncle I’d tell him I wanted to be a pilot. It always seemed to make him feel proud and happy. I might have gotten this toy from him. I can’t remember honestly, but I do know I held on to the idea of being a pilot, at least for a little while.

1980s miniature toy bi-plane
The back of my toy plane

My Dad has told me more than once over the years that I started to change my mind about wanting to be a pilot when I saw footage on TV about the space shuttle The Challenger crash. Like I mentioned above, after doing a quick google search here tonight, I found out that happened January 28, 1986. At only three years old I started to put it together in my mind that flying could be dangerous. I remember telling my aunt at a dance recital years later that I was a afraid my uncle would be so sad if he knew I might have changed my mind about being a pilot. Of course he understood, but this is what comes to mind when I see this little plane.

How about you? What did you want to be growing up? Is there a story you remember or a person you looked up to that influenced your childhood dream? I’d love to hear your nostalgic story. Leave a comment below.

Why I love the color, yellow.

My mom has told me the same story four days before my birthday for as long as I can remember. Over the years she’s either called me or sent an email retelling me just how it all happened that day. Sometimes, I think that day remains in her mind more clearly than my actual birthday.

It goes something like this: “Thinking of you this morning. Actually snowed last night like that morning on my last day of teaching before you were born. I remember the crunch of the car door. I remember the looks on your sister’s faces from the backseat when I pulled out of the garage crunching my drivers door. I remember the snow coming into the car because the door could not close tight.”

I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin. I’m the youngest of three girls, and my mom worked as a teacher for many years.

When I stop to try and imagine my mom’s pregnant body trying to hold her car door shut as she was driving my sister’s around, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry for her. She’s said she can look back and laugh now, but no wonder it’s etched in her mind. I love hearing this story.

Now, why does this particular story come to mind when I think of the color yellow?

Tonight I pulled out my very first doll. She’s yellow.

1980s yellow Bradley Dolls doll
My first doll was yellow

She was a gift from my grandpa, my mom’s dad, and my uncle, one of her four brothers. They just so happen to be my first visitors at the hospital I was born in. I’m guessing they may have picked it up in the gift shop on their way in. I’ve had it ever since.

How does this connect with the story above? They came down from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to fix my mom’s car. They didn’t know when they got there that my mom had just had me. I guess I also came earlier than expected. Imagining them walking in with this particular doll makes me smile, I’m sure it made my mom smile too. I guess because of the type of doll she is, and simply because of the contrast to the humble and modest type of men they both are, or were. My grandfather passed away when I was four.

This doll always sat on a shelf in my room above my bed. I saw it everyday. I believe it is why I have a strong feeling of happiness and cheerfulness when I see the color yellow.

As you can see, this doll is a southern bell. Being from the midwest, not really something I could immediately relate to growing up. She’s not a doll I played with at all. In fact, she still has the tag on her. She looks brand new! It’s as though I preserved and protected her, admired her and just looked and dreamed about her.

But I cherished her, completely. Maybe, because she was so different from anything else I had or encountered over the years.

Bradley Dolls Tag for yellow doll
Original Bradley Dolls tag

Some things about her are like me however. She has blonde hair and blue eyes like I do. She has beautiful curls that I must have so wanted to uncurl, but I never did. I have naturally curly hair.

I remember lifting up her hoop skirt and checking out her legs and shoes. Yup, they’re still there. I’d count the three layers of her dress and carefully place them back down.

A yellow Bradley Dolls doll skirt layers
Hoop doll skirt with three layers

Her hat I remember used to get a little dusty. I’d blow it off a little once in a while and gently touch the long bow, but never tried to untie it. She’s even carrying three little white silk flowers that must have been so tempting to take off. But I never did.

A yellow Bradley Dolls doll face
Painted doll face and curls
A yellow Bradley Dolls doll hat with bow
Southern Bell hat with bow

I love this doll. To me it represents elegance, class, and sophistication. I think as a young girl I was drawn to things that made me want to take care of them and things that made me dream. I never named her though. I’m not sure why.

It may have been an odd choice for a newborn gift. But they absolutely selected the right gift for me. I have enjoyed her since 1982.

This doll is why I believe I love the colorĀ yellow.

How about you? Do you have a nostalgic story behind why you believe you love a certain color?

I’d love to hear your color story below. Please leave a comment.