"Hey, can I ask you a question," he pointed up to me from his aisle seat in 16D. His grandmother was next to him. And his younger brother, maybe five years old or so on the window seat. And his redneck daddy across the aisle, on my right, in 16C.
Sure, I told him. He wanted to know if my wings were solid gold. The wings on my uniform. The wings that every crew member in the world gets when they graduate flight attendant training. They are one's claim to fame. I've had mine for 17 years or so. No, I told him, they weren't solid gold. I knelt down in the aisle in between him and his dad across the aisle. I told him they were some sort of heavy metal but not gold. But that they weren't plastic either. He asked if he could touch them. Sure. And he did. He loved that.
He then asked about the small pin that sits just above my wings. I told him it was my years of service pin. He said, "Are those diamonds?" Why, yes, yes they are. The kid apparently has a good eye for the finer things in life, even at age eight or so. He wanted to know what those meant. I told him that meant that I'd been here for between 15-20 years. And that when I hit 20 years, they would switch to rubies. Wow. That was pretty cool, he said.
I asked him what he was doing 17 years ago when I started flying. He giggled. His redneck papa is staring me down but good. And not redneck in a good sort of way, may I add. Quite clearly, daddy didn't know what to think of me. That's a common thought when others observe me. I asked him how old he thought I was. "Umm, maybe 40....but no more," he answered. Good boy. Really good kid, I told him. I liked him even more.
I told him that I would be 50 years old this very week. Man oh man, his eyes got big and he pointed at me. "You don't look over 40......45 at the very most," he clarified. And with that, his younger brother on the window seat pointed at me and said "42!"
This is the beginning of the end of my '40s. One week from today I will reach 50.....certainly midlife.