On The Wing Of An Airplane


About once a week a stranger visits my site by googling “girls in patent leather boots.”  I don’t want to know what he is hoping to find, but on his quest he stumbles upon my sister and me.  As far as as I can remember I have never written a post about or used the term “patent leather boots.” So be it.  Now I am.  As a little girl I wanted white patent leather boots so badly I wrote it on my Christmas list for three years in a row.  (My parents searched and searched, but could not find them in a child’s size.)  Jenny had black patent leather boots, therefore I wanted white — the same but different, maybe even better.  In this picture, I’m wearing white knee socks.  From a distance, I hoped, they looked like leather.  We’re standing on the wing of my mother’s divorce lawyer’s airplane.  His name was Henry Hill and he used to fly over our house upside down just for fun.  “Oh there’s Henry,” Mom would say, rushing out to the deck, looking up at the sky.  And there he was, swooping all around, flirting with my mother even though both were involved with others.  The plane would disappear, but before long he’d show up with a girl on his arm for a dip in the steamy indoor swimming pool, the water so hot it wrinkled your skin, underwater speakers playing Neil Young and Bob Dylan — the little kids (there were ten of us in all) told to stay out because it was “adult time” in the pool.  In the summers, Henry would fly us up to Maine to dig clams for an afternoon. Here, in the picture, we’re near Prout’s Neck.  I have no idea what we’re staring at, but I love our contrasting expressions: Jenny is a little skeptical, mouth pinched closed, hoping, though, to be disproven; I’m a little in awe, a bit afraid.  I can feel the cool salt air, smell it mixed with pine.  We don’t have pierced ears yet and last year’s dresses are more fashionable now because we’ve grown taller.  Our mother has tied bows at the end of our braids.  I’m clutching Juicy Fruit.  Even so, with those boots and the desire for another pair, the adventures having already begun, jetting around with a divorce lawyer, we’re reaching forward toward the adult world.

And here we are.  Almost 40 years have passed.  The divorce lawyer has died.  Jenny has stopped getting older.  (Her birthdays ended when she turned 37.  It’s a neat trick.)  Skeptical, hopeful, in awe, a little bit afraid, many adventures, Jenny still by my side.

Jenny McPhee

3 thoughts on “On The Wing Of An Airplane

  1. I wish I were going to be by your side in Mexico! You better take me with you next time. This is lovely, Martha. A stunning product, I’m guessing, of exquisite procrastination. Of course, my memory of this trip was throwing up all over both my groovy new dress and you in the back of the plane.

  2. Lovely account..Magical image. I last saw Henry Hill years back watering at the A&B. I remember that indoor pool and playing James Bond “Thunderball” with the bb gun and dodging the fire underwater as the bb’s would lance the surface and rapidly come to a cradled descent to the bottom. And who could foget the patent leather boots of the 60’s and 70’s made famous perhaps earlier by Errol Flynn and then Diana Rigg, Janis Joplin and Brigitte Bardot. Juicy Fruit long a staple of the aviators of WWII to “RP McMurphy” is in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” powerful enough of a memory to evoke the first words from the mute “Chief” charatcer played by Will Sampson. With any luck you’ll be able to find those white patent leather boots on Ebay with still real patent…As for Juicy Fruit sadly the ingredients have changed for the worse.

    1. Dear Grant, Agreed about Juicy Fruit. You are so darn funny. And I love the bb gun memory. It’s so cool that you know what I’m referring to, that you even remember, know Henry Hill. Cheers, Martha

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