I’m not in the habit of rating these blogs for audience suitability, but in this instance, I’ll make an exception. It’s rated PD (pretty depressing).
You don’t see skywriters anymore. I don’t. Haven’t in years. Is it a pollution issue? Perhaps too few potential customers would look up from their phones to make it worthwhile. I was crazy about them as a kid, and there’d be one every couple of weeks or so.. I’d stand there with my dad, gawking up at the sky, fidgety to see what the next letter would be. Dad always knew.
It seemed a dashing profession, but though skywriters fascinated me, I had no illusions about becoming one. I knew I’d be dreadful at it, all that twisting and turning to get the letters right. And even if somehow I managed to control the plane, there was no eraser in case you made a mistake.
In 1942, when I turned five, my father was so proud I had learned to read that he gave me a very grown-up and expensive present (this is not a digression, by the way). It was a beautifully bound and embossed three volume set of the New Collier Century Dictionary. Its only drawback, for me, was a two page spread of detailed, realistic color illustrations of the worlds most venomous serpents. It scared the daylights out of me, and I dropped the book each time those pages reared their multiple heads at me. I resigned myself to learning only two thirds of all the words in the world, but I kept forgetting in which volume my tormentors resided.
I have the set still. It has a place of honor in the bedroom case where our most handsomely bound books are kept. It looks like new, unless you open the covers to the first, originally blank, pages. There, you will see my shameful secret. I had not only learned to read, I had learned to write and draw. Volume I sports fashion designs for paper dolls, a picture hat and an evening gown complete with tabs. Volume II contains the beginning of an original story, “Mickey, the bad Monkey.” But it’s Volume III that displays my most infamous and elaborate desecration, a jet fighter pilot skywriter. His message, in huge lettering (cartouched in a heart) reads, “Hello, Polly! I love you!” For extra pizazz, my five-year-old imagination has him writing not with smoke but bullets. Even the heart.
Needless to say, when my father discovered the disgraceful misuse I had made of his gift, I was spoken to seriously. Not sharply, but seriously. Why had I done it? “I didn’t have any paper,” was my abysmal reply. This being my father and not some other fellow’s, the next few days saw the arrival of several tablets and a sketch pad.
Which brings me to my need for a skywriter. I need one to blazon across the heavens “John Kruzan has passed away. ” Even now, I can’t bring myself to use the d word. Just when I thought that, surely, everyone knew, some neighbors whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while asked cheerfully, “How’s John?” I got a double dose, with “Where’s John?” for they were in different parts of their yard. These are good people. They meant well. They were miserable when I flinched and they realized the situation. No one was to blame. It just happens. I guess it will happen a few more times, only a few if I’m lucky.
How is he? Where is he? These are questions I ask myself on a daily basis. I don’t yet have answers that give me peace. Perhaps I never will. To be asked this innocently by acquaintances, is an ambush with no harm behind it. There’s no way to prepare for it, and you don’t know it’s coming. I make an effort to regain my composure quickly and put them at ease, smile if I can manage it. But for a few brief seconds it’s like, oh, I don’t know, like a surprise volley of arrows raining down as you scale the castle wall. Every time. Maybe that was the last time. I hope so. But just in case, where can I find a skywriter?