That first plane ride - maybe my first travel memory

In a slight departure from my typical kind of post, I'd like to share a story about my first experience riding a plane.

It was a grueling 12-hour flight into Seoul from San Francisco and 6-year-old me had no idea what to do to alleviate the pressure forming in my ears as the plane gained altitude. So I scratched and picked at them until they turned bright red. My grandmother and the flight attendants advised me many times to swallow my saliva but it wasn't working. And when I continued to complain of the pain, they eventually just started ignoring me. In the end, I recall sitting in my seat quietly crying until the pressure subsided on its own an eternity later. No thanks to the adults!

Various annoyances abounded on the flight. Kids gave out piercing screams from rows both ahead and behind me. There was ALWAYS a long line for the bathroom.

But despite the fact that I was starting to hate everything on this plane, my initial excitement over flying remained intact. After all, it was a grand adventure to travel across the Pacific Ocean, even if I did have to share the experience with a bunch of rowdy, bathroom-hogging Korean families. 

As the night drew on, I saw passenger lights turn off one-by-one and window shutters slide down. At one point deep into the evening, I was absolutely certain I was the only passenger left who was still awake with their window shutter open.

I watched the sky outside all night long in fascination and witnessed dawn rise up from my vantage point above the clouds. And I kept gazing as those clouds changed slowly from purple to ruddy orange.

Then, out of nowhere, there they were! Three golden lakes in the sky. Breaks in the clouds illuminating the light of the rising sun like mirrors. But how did they glow so brightly? Could it be they were in fact really made of water? That they were truly as they appeared - floating lakes in the sky?

In any case, I was convinced I was the only one awake to witness this phenomenon. And it was just as well that the adults slept through it. Adults were a curious enigma to me, walking through life begrudgingly as if all that kept them from death was the worry of fulfilling their obligations to other people. They only ever complained about work and money and in that there was no end. Had one been awake at this very moment, they likely would have been blind to the natural majesty in front of them.

The plane moved onward and we passed two of the three lakes slowly. Then, at the third lake, I felt the plane begin to descend. We were still hours away from the destination and there was no reason to drop altitude. But the pilot did it anyway and submerged the plane into the third lake, diving in as if we were crossing a gateway into another universe.

I was hysterical. Where are we going? What will we see on the other side?

Who knew what we'd find below the surface of that golden sky lake. We could have landed in Narnia at that point and I wouldn't have been the least bit shocked. And there, I'd be greeted by a fawn who'd send me on a quest to save a princess or something.

But my overactive imagination wasn't rewarded that day. We uneventfully landed in Seoul the next morning around 9.

Now every time I fly long distances, I think about those sky lakes and whether I'll ever see that phenomenon again. But it's probably too late. For one, I don't actually think it's physically possible for empty sky to reflect sunlight like that. And I'm fairly certain my current memory of that night is nowhere near the reality of physics. And this kind of thinking is precisely the reason why my younger self had no faith us adults possess the capability to see the fantastical in the real - to see the story hidden inside every object around us. We really do go a little blind when we cross that gateway from childhood into our adult form. The world seems to be so much smaller, not because it is, just because we believe it to be.

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