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Follow your dreams and let your spirit soar

I have decided to come out and admit my age. It's about time I stopped worrying about stereotyping, with the thought that if people know how old I am, they will have preconceived notions of what I can and cannot do.

Here's a clue: I figured out years ago that my mother was probably so excited about Charles Lindbergh's landing in France, that she had her baby early -- me! When I announced that theory to her one day, she denied it; but knowing how excited she got whenever a plane flew overhead, I knew better.

Ever since she was a young girl and heard about the Wright Brothers' first flight, mother jumped at every opportunity to see a plane in the air. Whenever we heard a plane approach, she would run outside to see it, beckoning all of us to follow. My sisters, all older than I, soon tired of it, but I would hurry out, equally curious about the size and shape of every plane and whether it was flying low enough to see its numbers. I can still see mother in the yard on Winslow Avenue, often with a spatula still in hand, pointing skyward: "A biplane!" "A Piper Cub!" "Twin engines!" Then one day: "Look at that -- a four-engine job!"

Equally excited by any accomplishments of women that showed they could do things previously limited to men, mother was especially entranced by the feats of Amelia Earhart. When her attempt to fly around the world ended in the vast unknown of the Pacific Ocean, mother was convinced that they would find her safe on an island somewhere.

So it was no surprise that when the war came and Bell Aircraft was looking for workers, she got a job as a guard at the plant in Niagara Falls. The downside was that we had no car and she needed to get up and out of the house by 5 a.m. to make all the connections on public transportation from the East Side of Buffalo. The upside was a job that paid as much as a man would be paid for the same job, with the added bonus of getting to be near the planes and meet her heroes, the pilots.

One day she came home and said, "There's a rumor at the plant that a plane flew over 600 miles an hour." That seemed impossible, since those flying over our yard were traveling at a fraction of that speed. Later, when Chuck Yeager was praised as the test pilot for the first experimental jets, she said, "Oh, I know him. I used to bring him cookies."

That week in May so long ago, before I was born, newspaper articles and radio reports traced the anticipation on both sides of the Atlantic, as people followed Lindy's daring adventure to fly solo across the ocean, demonstrating the possibilities of flight.

I can't imagine mother being able to sleep the night I was born, after hearing on the radio that Lindbergh had landed safely in France. I arrived at 2:25 a.m. on the 22nd, and the headline of that Sunday morning Buffalo newspaper read: "Lindy Lands in Paris."

What a thrill for my mother, who was raised in the horse and buggy days. She may have hoped to ride in a motorcar some day, maybe even drive one, but flying in a plane would have been an impossible dream.

That's why for my birthday I want to get in a small plane, like Lindy did, and soar into the sky, celebrating the gift that the heroes of flight offered to us: have a dream and follow it, undeterred by anyone's preconceived notion of what is possible.

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