Dear Amelia Earhart

June 1986

After the first flight

Dear Ms. Earhart,

I realize this is the second letter today, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about my first small airplane experience. It was the pits. The plane we flew in had big, fat wings that reminded me of a Hershey Bar with almonds. Dr. Vet-Pilot called her “The Warrior.” (She said, like boats, planes are referred to as girls.) The plane definitely had the courage of a Native American legend; I, however, flailed like a fish out of water. Fact is, I threw up. I filled an entire gallon-sized plastic bag with my pink colored guts. I’m not really sure what happened to the gum mixed in with the ice cream, since when I swallowed the minty pieces they were whole, and when they came back up, they were gone. Am I going to be susceptible to air sickness? Oh, please no. Dr. VP assured me that most people throw up the first time flying in a small airplane. Nerves, she said. The reason why she always carries a bunch of zip baggies in her purse. (I’m not sure if this is an actual fact or if she was trying to make me feel better.) Anyway, she suggested that next time I skip the dairy products before flying. (She’s right; two scoops was probably overboard.) Did you ever feel queasy in an airplane, Ms. Earhart? Did it happen every time you went up, or did you eventually get past the nausea and vomiting? I sure wish I could talk to you right now, since I’m feeling sort of unsure about my decision to become a pilot. I mean, what if my stomach isn’t cut out for high altitudes? Maybe Dr. VP is right though; maybe the combination of the heat and dairy wreaked havoc with my intestines. (Fingers and toes crossed behind my back.) After the flight, Dr. VP took me to lunch. Pretty generous of her since I puked in her pristine Warrior Aircraft. The smell in a confined space was enough to make anyone gag. She didn’t. She seems pretty tough. I wasn’t very hungry, as you can imagine. I sipped ginger ale and listened as Dr. VP did the talking. She told me the story about how she became a veterinarian and, eventually, a bigwig at the American Veterinary Medical Association. While she explained that she was the only lady in her degree program at the time, and had spent most of her career around men, I noticed her confident smile fade, her shoulders slump, and her eyes glaze. Dr. VP said that while being a trailblazer sounded like an exciting adventure, the fact was, anytime you’re different from the group, expect to be treated different. Different? I asked, not really understanding what she meant. When she explained further, how she was on her own most of the time, and the standards for her were above and beyond what her peers’ were, she cried. A flood of tears tracked down her cheeks as she spoke, and all I could think to do was reach across the table and squeeze her hand. I’m confused, Ms. Earhart. Dr. VP had risen to the top of her field—a highly regarded vet, not to mention a pilot. She was amazing in my eyes. The first female flyer I’d ever met. How incredible. So, why was she so sad? When she moved her hand from mine, she dried her eyes and started talking about the weather like nothing had happened. Was she upset because I threw up in the plane? Or was she just having a bad day? Could she be on her period? (I know I get weepy when my Aunt Flo is about to visit.) I don’t think it was my flying that scared her since I only touched the controls for a couple of minutes and nothing bad happened; at least nothing I’m aware of. I started to ask if she was okay, but she cut me off with a shushing finger. Dr. VP looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If you want to be unconventional, you need to grow really thick skin.” I glanced at my tanned arms and remembered that my granddad told me that some distant relative had married a Portuguese woman, and that’s why instead of having fair, freckled, skin, I inherited a thick outer layer that easily tanned; I’m dark Irish. Mark that obstacle off the required items to be a pilot checklist. Do you have thick skin, Ms. Earhart? From all the pictures I’ve seen, you look fair complected.

Well it’s getting late, and I’m sure you’d like to get some rest.

Good night Ms. Earhart. I hope you dream of clear skies and calm winds.


A thick-skinned aviator with an iffy stomach.


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