Flying Down to Rio
The early morning light made long tree shadows below us. I took the card out of the pocket of the seat in front of me. It said we were on a Vickers Viscount twin-engine propellor plane and said what to do if we crashed. This was the first of the four planes we’d take to get from London, Ontario, to São Paulo, Brazil. 
Before I could finish my cup of apple juice, a voice came over the loud speaker saying to fasten our seatbelts “In preparation for landing at Toronto Pearson’s International Airport.” From Toronto, we took a DC-9 airplane to La Guardia Airport in New York City, where after collecting our luggage, we got in a long line of other people waiting for cabs.
When it was our turn, Harry helped Mom pull the bigger bags across the sidewalk. Harry got in the front seat with the driver. Mom, Gail, and I got in the back. Mom leaned forward and told the driver to take us to John F. 
Kennedy Airport. There were long lines of traffic all around us. Mom kept looking at her watch, her lips a tight line across her face. I wanted to talk but I knew that if I did, they’d all tell me to be quiet.
It was late at night by the time we boarded the Varig Airlines jet. A stewardess in a blue suit with a red and white handkerchief around her neck came down the aisle carrying a bowl of candies in tropical fruit flavors. I took the pineapple one. Right behind her was another stewardess. She gave me a plastic case in which there was a small, black, fine toothed comb (like the one Vovô let us comb what was left of his hair with), a small toothbrush, and a tiny tube of toothpaste. I pulled the table down from the seat in front of me and carefully lined everything up.
I combed my bangs into a point in the middle of my forehead, and turned to look at Gail. She just rolled her eyes. When I opened the tube of toothpaste and smelled it, the murmur of passengers settling in around me instantly faded away. I felt the cold, green tile of Vovô’s bathroom under my feet and the smell of Vovô’s shaving cream mixed with the taste of the pineapple candy dissolving in my mouth.
We each got a row of three seats to sleep in. A steward came over and said, “Time to be quiet and sleep now,” as he tucked a blanket around me. I looked at the ceiling of the plane, where constellations of stars lit up when the lights were dimmed. Flying through the deep, pin-pricked night, I fell asleep. 
When I woke up, everyone else on the airplane was asleep. The only sound was the continuous growl of the jet engines. I got on my knees, pulled up the shade and put my face to the window. The sky was pitch dark. I looked down and saw a city, golden and glittering in inky blackness. I thought about the Bermuda Triangle. What if that was where the missing planes were? I was about to wake Gail up to show her when the city disappeared. I slid back down into my three seats and fell asleep again. 
“Time for breakfast.” The steward was back. He was holding a tray.
Pink-tinged clouds billowed up beside us. They looked like houses. I leaned across the aisle and asked Mom, pointing out the window, if that is where God lived. 
She just smiled and said, “Eat your breakfast, Lilo.” 
The egg smell made me feel queasy. I ate the roll and drank the orange juice.
In Rio, the airport smelled like disinfectant and coffee. Mom's heels clicked loudly on the shiny floor. We walked through a hundred hallways and stood in line with a thousand people. Wooden fans turned slowly above our heads. Mom said we had to clear customs before getting on the last plane.
I couldn’t wait to get there. I imagined the house on Rua Avaré with its red tile floors, the heavy, brown shutters, no glass to block the night sounds or the bird calls in the morning. The telephone booth with the accordion glass door, wooden bench, smooth against my bare thighs, the shiny, black telephone in the front hallway. The steps' wide sweep of marble, reaching up from the foyer where my great-grandmother, long since dead, was once sometimes seen.  A spirit in a white dress, grey hair pulled back into a bun, arms folded across her chest. 
The last plane was so small that we sat facing each other. It bumped and swooned through clouds out of which poked jagged mountaintops. Harry vomited up the eggs he had eaten for breakfast, as Mom held onto the armrests of her seat, knuckles white, eyes closed, lips pressed tightly together. I wasn’t scared.
As the plane made a final dip under the clouds, I saw green mountains and a circle of red earth around a sprawling white city. 
As soon as we pushed through the door that separated the arriving people from waiting ones, there was a loud shout. A group broke off from the mass of bodies and rushed over to us. There were so many people hugging me, kissing me, shouting about how green my eyes were and how much I’d grown. I couldn’t tell one jewel be-decked aunt, cologne-doused uncle from the next.
I found Vovô and wrapped my arms around him. He rubbed my hair with his hand, a huge grin on his face. He shouted “Vamos embora, gente!” 
We all went out into the dazzling sunshine, followed by men in red caps, who pushed a wagon piled high with our luggage. Chauffeur Luis, curved back, glasses perched on his hawk-like nose, was leaning on Vovô and Vovó’s car. The aunts and uncles got into their cars and we all drove out of the airport in a row. 


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