When I was five-years-old, my parents and I drove to southern California from Illinois in their light green unairconditioned Oldsmobile.
I remember quite a bit about being in California and later, the train ride back to Illinois with my mother, but I don’t remember anything at all about the long drive to California except that we stopped and spent the night in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As a five-year-old, everything about being in Albuquerque was a new and electrifying sensory experience. Even the name – Albuquerque! — was exotic and lyrical and fun to say.
As I walked with my parents from the motel to a nearby diner I remember that I felt like Dorothy when she woke up and found that the tornado had dropped her house in Oz — I wasn’t in Illinois anymore. Instead of the familiar horizontal stripes of yellow cornfields and blue sky, this landscape was a hounds tooth pattern of oranges and pinks and browns and other kinds of browns all swirling and mixing together.
While we were eating, a sand storm blew in and when we stepped outside of the diner, hot wind and gritty sand pelted my face and threatened to blow me away. My dad grabbed one of my hands and my mom the other and then they leaned shoulder into the wind and pressed towards the motel.
As we made our way across the street, each step a staggering effort, a gust of wind blew both of my feet completely out behind me. I clearly remember, at that moment, the sensation of flying. I remember the feel of the scorching wind slapping my face and the tingling stinging blast of sand on my bare legs and the grainy pixels of desert colors I could see through squinted eyes.
As my feet flew out behind me, I was not afraid of the mighty gritty wind, but exhilarated. I was fearless. I knew my parent’s hands that were gentle and comforting were also capable and strong and reliable. I was secure in the knowledge that neither they nor their grip would fail me. And because of that I was able to fly without fear, not just in that storm, but in many storms to come.