Dear Amelia Earhart


June 1986

Dear Ms. Earhart,

I got off the plane today in Florida and, WOW! The sun was shining and the skies were blue for as far as I could see; the perfect place, I think, to learn to fly. (Don’t tell my parents, but I’d already decided that this is the school for me, and I hadn’t even seen the college campus yet.) Daytona Beach is so different than Chicago; and the aeronautical school’s campus is so cool. You should have seen the look on my parent’s faces when they realized the administration office was in a mobile trailer. Especially since they had received a whopping tuition estimate in the mail just before we left. When mom and dad showed me what flight training is going to cost, I was embarrassed. I wanted to tell my parents we could find another way for me to become a pilot. (The university is way too expensive and I don’t want to be a burden.) But before I had a chance, they told me they had a game plan to make it work, and would do whatever it took to help me become a pilot. My parents don’t always agree on things, but when it comes to taking care of their children, they are the best team I’ve ever seen. I’m the luckiest girl on the planet. On the campus tour, we got a chance to visit the flight line. Wowie! I’ve never seen something so beautiful. Eighty planes, lined up in rows like soldiers, their pale blue stripes reflecting the bright Florida sunshine. Goosebumps raised on my arms; every hair stood at attention. A sign, I’m hoping, that I’m on the right track. Did you feel that way when you saw airplanes? Like something inside shifted and you would never be the same if you didn’t step on another ramp and hear the hum of propellers spin? I’m not sure what all this means, but I left the campus dizzy. (And no, I didn’t eat any ice cream.) While in the car driving to Orlando, I stared out the window and searched the sky, trying to name each type of airplane I found. Kind of a tall order since the only airplane types I know are 727, DC-10 and L-1011, and I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen any of those on the drive. But I made mental notes of the wing heights and where the engines were attached, so when I have a chance, I can do a little research and become more familiar. My parents suggested we go out to dinner and celebrate my college selection. But my idea of celebrating my school pick was less like eating, and more like dancing. My friends and I back home go to 18 and under clubs twice a week, and dance and sweat until our clothes are soaked. I wouldn’t say I’m a good dancer, but I have endurance. Do you like to dance Ms. Earhart? I wonder. Being way cool, my parents found a dance place called Church Street Station—A party complex with a dance bar named Rosie O Grady’s. I dressed up in a black and white striped mini dress, my favorite neon pink drop earrings and matching fuchsia patent pumps, and teased my hair high enough to be a hazard for low flying airplanes. (Kidding; sort of.) My parents dropped me off at the dance spot for a couple of hours, and took my younger brother to a restaurant nearby, so I could blow off steam and celebrate by dancing until my half moons fell off. It was early; the bar and dance floor were empty. So I did what any girl would do; I went out and cut a rug by myself. After some time, a few guys dressed in Hawaiian shirts came into the bar, and between dance sets, we introduced ourselves and talked. Turns out they were in the Navy. What a coincidence, right? They were stationed in Orlando attending submarine nuclear power school. We’d only visited for a short time, when I noticed my parents waving through the bar’s glass windows. When my dad fingered his watch, I knew it was time to go. (Even though I really wanted to stay.) One of the sailors walked me out and asked for the name of the hotel where we were staying. I gave it to him, and as I walked into my room, the phone was ringing. He asked me to spend the next day with him at EPCOT Center. Sure, why not? How cool, I’d met my first friend. Maybe when I come back to school in the fall, I’ll already know someone. (Since this will be the first time I’ve been away from Chicago, my family and friends.) Must be a sign, Ms. Earhart. I feel like my life is starting to take shape.

Off on an adventure,

An aspiring aviator, with a game plan.

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