When I was in sixth grade my teacher did a lot of projects—and made us do a lot of projects as well. One of her favorite things was to have us present oral book reports dressed up as the main character. I have NEVER been a fan of public speaking so I found this very annoying. And I always read books that didn’t have “normal” main characters—especially when it came to biographies. The one biography I can remember in particular was about Amelia Earhart. I LOVED reading about her. She was a very interesting character, indeed. (I also loved Amelia Bedelia books—maybe it was just the name????) But I digress…
Of course, we did not have an Amelia Earhart costume. My mom (Gigi) always LOVED getting into the projects with joyful enthusiasm, much to my dismay. For my Amelia book report she decided that we should go to the Army surplus store. She got me some goggles, earphone set with a microphone, and a parachute. I had a jacket that could pass as an aviator’s jacket and we tucked some pants into boots and topped the whole thing off with a white scarf. Thankfully we did not take a picture. But I have to say, as mortifying as the whole experience was, I looked pretty authentic (for a school book report) and the goggles helped me to feel like I was covered up, so all in all, it was not as entirely embarrassing as it could have been. I think we only had to do 19 of these throughout the school year. Miss Clements had quite an imagination, God love her!
Gigi recently (recently as in about a year ago) brought me the costume box for Joy and Marlo to play dress up in their many adventures in Playland. At the bottom of the box was the parachute and headgear from my book report. Joy and Marlo are deeply entrenched in the fairy princess phase of their dress up life, so the aviator stuff is usually at the bottom of the box, forgotten and ignored.
A few nights ago I received an unexpected break in my very busy life. When we got home from work, Hubs gallantly offered to make albondigas for dinner. I didn’t have to do anything except play with the kids. I bathed them first, just to get it out of the way, and then we headed to the loft to play. After a few minutes of general chaotic excitement, they settled in to play dress up. Joy put on the former flower girls dress…Marlo put on a tutu. They started playing music and dancing, and I looked down into the bottom of the box and there was Amelia’s parachute.
I took the parachute out of the box and looked over it. I don’t think I had ever really done that before. But that night, in the midst of two magical fairy princesses dancing their hearts out, I decided that this parachute warranted a second look. I pulled all of the fasteners off and moved all of the belts and buckles. There was not parachute inside. There were rubber band looking things at the ends and the parachute lines had been cut. And then I turned it over and there was a little place right in the middle that said Data and Information. As I looked closer I realized it was a pocket. I reached inside the pocket and there was a little card—with handwritten entries on the card! The chute holder had been manufactured in 1943 and was used until 1964. And the most interesting part of all was that the owner of the chute was a man who lived in the next town over from me! (If they put stuff like this in history books, I might have enjoyed history a little bit more.)
The next item on my very busy agenda is to look this man up and find out if he or his family still live at that address. And then if I can locate him, I’m going to take him his parachute holder and have a chat with him. And hopefully learn a lot more than I learned for my oral book report. And thank him for his service to our country.
This story reminds me of an email someone once sent me. I remembered the title of the story and looked it up online. It’s a good story with a great message:
I packed your parachute!
Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ' You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down! 'How in the world did you know that?' asked Plumb. 'I packed your parachute,' the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, 'I guess it worked!' Plumb assured him, 'It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today.'
Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, 'I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.'
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, 'Who's packing your parachute?' Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.
And so there it is… a great big thank you to everyone (in this story) who has packed my parachute, including, but not limited to, Amelia Earhart, Gigi, Joy and Marlo, Miss Clements, and Mr. Ward, the parachute owner. Oh, yes, and Hubs for making dinner so I could learn something new from a 6th grade lesson…and be reminded of all of the blessings in my life who provide what I need to make it through the day.
Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.