Have a safe flight


Elizabeth Chin, Staff Columnist

Tucked safely away between my mom and the cold aluminum walls, I lean against the window, sitting just above the wing. The engine starts to wake up, producing a humming roar. Keeping my eyes on the wing and runway, I stretch out my left arm over the armrest to meet my mom’s hand. The warmth of her palm immediately soothes me. My stubby four-year-old fingers wrap around her thumb and hers wrap around my small fist, enclosing it and forming a seal. She then takes the hand of my older sister who reaches across the aisle to my dad, who’s holding my brother’s hand. We are now a human chain across aisle 15, linked together by our palms. Sitting in the tension as the plane rapidly increases speed but the wheels have yet to lift off the ground, I start to tighten my grip. “Have a safe flight,” my mom says. “Have a safe flight,” I repeat. My hand disconnects from the chain as the noise calms and the airport disappears behind us.

A few years later, our family of five decided that we no longer needed to reserve a mini section of the plane to stick together for this flight. I’m sitting between two strangers and my family is scattered close by. While still on the tarmac, my mom texts our group chat, “Have a safe flight.”

I smile to myself before reaching through the crack between the seats in front of me. My sister curls her fingers into mine. My brother, dad, and mom are on the other side of the plane, so they do the same. Rather than one chain, two chains take form this time.

As a young child, I was never quite prepared for how much things would change. Familiarity was at home, and when that familiarity started slipping away, it often felt like I was being stripped of the things that once meant the most to me. I don’t care what people say about change; the bottom line is it’s never easy. At least, that’s how I felt growing up. Independence was all I ever wanted since middle school, but I didn’t know independence would be synonymous with feeling alone, even feeling lonely. But I guess that’s the hard part of growing up, right? Learning to stop holding your parents’ hand?

Today, it’s just me and my dad. We’re flying back from a weekend tournament. Our seats are displaced by the aisle and one row. I hesitate for a moment, remembering our tradition. Then, I turn my head back to find my dad smiling at me. I mouth the words, “Have a safe flight.” I reach out my hand, and he holds it. Relief. Some things don’t change. I continue to hold out my hand, but then he pulls his hand away, going back to his phone. I turn back to face forward and sink into the seat. The engine hums, then roars. I place both of my arms on the armrests and hold the ends tight. I close my eyes and rewind a decade.

I’m going on my first flight without any family in the fall, and I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to feel. However, I do know that I can always count on my family. I’ll keep my phone off airplane mode just long enough to receive the flood of “have a safe flight” texts from my family. When taking off, my sister will be in New Jersey, my brother in Connecticut, my parents home in Newton, and I will be heading overseas. The distance won’t keep us that far apart, though. We’ll always manage to keep our traditions. When we would let go of each other’s hands, the link never actually broke.