A mask, a mask, for big and small, short and tall, one and all—the world's kingdoms now wear masks!
The day after Christmas, six o'clock in the morning and yours truly, along with grandson Christian and his two-year old boy Wyatt Henry Boggan were boarding a flight from Jackson to Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Col. Because of overbooked flights, little sister Aspyn and mother Baylee were on another airline. At the gateway, reddish blond hair curling out from a knit wool cap, sleeping eyes popped awake and the little boy pushed at the scanner brushing against his body. Muffled screams and unknown words poured through the Mickey Mouse mask covering the child's face, body doubling into a knot, then trying to stretch free, he was firmly held by his father.
And then, oh thank you Santa! Trembling lips found the best gift of all this Christmas! Grandmother Barbara had created a one of a kind face mask for Wyatt Henry. She had stitched a pacifier behind Mickey's posterior parts. Making it through Security, once aboard the plane, surely peace and ho ho ho lay ahead for the trip.
Plane rising, engines humming, we settled into our seats. As I often do I had a memory spin and returned to another little boy, the father of the one sitting beside me, and of another plane boarding.
A few months after 9/11, at the Jackson concourse National Guardsmen had scanned the boarding crowd.
Back then, this young boy had shifty brown eyes and blond hair curling out from under a black suede cowboy hat. He wore a denim jacket, faded jeans, and leather cowboy boots. An empty holster hung from his belt. He pulled a brown overnight case behind him with rusty wheels that jerked like an arrhythmic heartbeat as they struck the marble floor.
In those days the armed soldiers wouldn't take foolishness lightly, but all systems in the airport terminal seemed to be on go, even as the young dude swaggered to the boarding area and lifted his small case onto the conveyer belt.
"Presents," he said as his overnighter passed on through. "Going to Colorado for Christmas."
That's when the five-year old traveling with me made his first mistake. He turned to the lady behind him and tugged on the edge of her fur jacket.
"I don't like magic wands." He pointed to the metal detector. "They make things blow up."
"I can't believe you said that," the woman whispered.
One of the National guardsmen whipped his head around and came to attention. "Check him."
The dude made his second mistake.
"Are you looking for guns, cigarettes, or firecrackers?" he asked the uniformed lady at the security machine.
The lady pulled him out of line.
"Hands up!" the guardsman said.
The cowboy cupped his arms in the air like a wood duck, it's wings arched and braced for a water landing.
The scanner revealed nothing. The dude hitched his belt and sauntered on thorugh the checkpoint.
An alarm went off.
Another body search revealed nothing.
Another walk through.
Again an alarm.
"Shoes off," the lady said.
Boots were removed. The security lady turned the boy upside down. Everyone in line took a step back.
A small metal object dropped out.
The cowboy wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand.
The National Guardsman, his fingers inches away from the trigger of a Model 92 Beretta examined the object carefully with his other hand.
A miniature NYPD firetruck.
The now smiling soldier motioned the young man through.
The hustle and bustle in that part of the terminal quieted down. Nobody minded the delay or the inconvenience. Even if the suspect was only three feet tall, all of the passengers boarding the airline were happy that such tests and scrutiny were being done for their protection.
And the Boggans breathed a sigh of relief as five-year old Christian finally passed through security and we were able to board the plane for Colorado.
Christian held son Wyatt tight in his arms. We had made it through Security, setting off no alarms.
But as often seems to happen, the game plan changed. Once underway, the lullaby of humming thrumming engines changed it's tune. There was a medical emergency on board, our flight was diverted to Springfield, Missouri.
Coming down my breath caught in my throat. We experienced the worst turbulence you could imagine, we could have been in an out of balance washing machine. We later found out our plane was too large and too loaded for a normal landing at this airport.
Then once landed, and the patient carried to the hospital, we were five and a half hours on board before the motors hummed and fired up again. The reason for this delay seemed to be that our pilots hours of flying were used up so we had to wait until another crew could be brought in.
Finally, engines roaring we were on our way. Not to Hayden/Steamboat, but to Denver, Colorado where Christian, Wyatt and I were graciously put up for the night in adjoining rooms at the Cambria. We were ready for peace and quiet, but that wasn't in the game plan. We almost got ejected from the hotel.
In the elevator, going up to our room, Wyatt Henry slung his face mask off and bent over in his daddy's arms.
Alarms blared. A commanding male voice boomed. Great grandson had punched a button---the Denver Fire Department. It took a few minutes but a worn-out father managed to explain there was no major emergency to an unhappy firefighters group. We finally made it to our rooms.
The next day luggage checked and bodies on loaded onto the plane, once again we were underway to snow country.
As expected, it would be a short journey. Soon the bass song of the engines dropped to a treble pitch, elephant ear flaps dropped, the flight slowed. Christian raised the window blinds, bent forward, then he leaned back so I could see.
Dropping through clouds of swirling confetti, a blinding white mattress of snow covered the ground.
I forced a grin.
My grandson returned my trembling grin with a happy smile.
Etched against a deep blue sky, we saw powdered, sugar-cookie mountains. Below us lay the breath taking, haunting and luring, winter wonderland of Steamboat Springs. Tears rolled down my cheeks, old memories filled me with wonder and sadness. And yes, there below me were forty-four years of joy.
I can't seem to say goodbye. Rebel Holler beckons.