Palwaukee 1960

Our family had moved to one of the beckoning Chicago suburbs in the 1960s. Mom took a job in a typing pool at a large oil company nearby and my stepdad rode the commuter train downtown to the Loop for his job.

Mom did her best to rebuff the 1960s housewife role but eventually she quit her job at my stepdad’s insistence. It was hard to keep up appearances behind her oversized pearlescent sunglasses hiding the latest bruise, compliments of her spouse. Their fights were scary and in my nine-year-old mind I worried about being sent away again to live with relatives; something that occurred regularly.

On a late summer afternoon Dad had all of us kids pile into his Buick for a ride. We ended up at Palwaukee Airport. Cessna was offering Discovery Flights for five dollars at the time. We got out of the car and I stood next to Mom watching the planes buzzing as they landed and took off from the runway. They looked smaller and smaller as they lifted up into the air. Mom watched their departure.

“My mom flew,” she said. “A Piper Cub. She used to dress in men’s clothes so no one would bother her.”

I looked up at my mom, her sunglasses perched on her nose, and her scarf wound around her hair, tied in the back Grace Kelly style.

"Did you fly too?" I asked.

“I did. It was a long time ago,“ she said and then smiled. “Come on, let’s see if you and I can go up.”

I clung to her hand as she led us into the office, breathing in her Tweed cologne. The man behind the counter agreed to take us up.

In minutes, my mom and I were strapped in the back seats while he checked controls, and then started the engine. The plane bounced over to the runway. I stared out at the blue lights that lined the runway. They looked like candy dots on the paper that we got at the penny candy store. My mom put her arm around me and kissed the top of my head.

“Ready?!” she had to holler over the engine noise. I nodded and squeezed her hand. It was just Mom and me. The rest of the family was left behind. The plane tore down the runway bucking side to side until the wings generated enough lift to push us into the air. We made a steep turn away from the airport and toward the city. I watched the lights scattered across the ground like a Lilliputian fantasy below.


Kathy Doherty is a freelance writer who lives in Parker, Colorado, and aggressively works from a cubicle farm to support the aviation industry. She’s been published in Metrosphere, Foliate Oak, Hot Metal Press, and One Million Stories Anthology. Kathy has a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University Denver.

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