This morning we drove Kirsten to the airport, it is her 13th birthday.  She is taking a direct flight from Dubai to Seattle.  It was difficult to say goodbye.  She’ll be in Quesnel with family for the next 58 days.  Flying is, of course, always exciting and generally memorable.  For some unknown reason I think I must attract the Flight Elves…  Flight Elves are cousins of Laundry Elves; whereas, Laundry Elves steal socks and throw red shirts in with your whites Flight Elves ground planes and wreak havoc on reservations.  I wouldn’t classify myself as a frequent flyer yet twice I’ve been bumped up to first class because of problems with over booked flights and broken planes.  I know quite a few people who fly all the time and have never been bumped up to first class.  Some would argue this is all just coincidence and maybe it is but I like to think God watches over fools like me.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise I suppose when we approached the Emirates desk and the lady behind the counter started out by saying, “Sir, we are offering a special on this flight today.  If you’d be willing to wait until tomorrow to fly we can give you a return ticket to Dubai to a destination of your choice (to be used within a year from now) and one night stay at a five star hotel.”  I would be lying if I said that didn’t sound tempting…  I mean, Tim could sleep in the Seattle airport for one measly night waiting for Kirsten, couldn’t he?  No, that would be mean.  I explained that Kirsten must get on this plane and that she was only 13 years old.  They could not possibly expect an unaccompanied minor to wait on standby.  Besides I purchased this ticket months ago and even came to the airport 2 days earlier to confirm everything regarding unaccompanied youth travellers!  She was unmoved.  “Sir, perhaps you’d like to go get some breakfast and come back at 8:40 when the flight checkin has closed and then maybe we can get her on the flight.”

What!  This trip was not getting off to a good start.  We walked away from the desk a bit dejected.  Poor Kirsten.  Silent prayers were ascending as we walked down the hall my eyes scanning for a place to sit.  After checking and retrieving the boarding pass we were supposed to take Kirsten to the unaccompanied minors lounge to drop her off and fill out some final paperwork.  Without the boarding pass I was sure they’d turn us back around if we showed up without it.  I reasoned that perhaps we could get the paperwork out of the way without the boarding passes.  It was a long shot.  This country is a stickler for process.  So off we went to the lounge.  We found a soul Emirates employee behind the desk dealing with multiple youth checkins, filling out forms, typing on the computer and answering several phones all at once.  Seriously, at one point she had a cellphone on her left ear and a landline on her right.  I love to watch people who are proficient and capable.  This woman could assess situations, tackle problems and cut to the quick.  I explained our situation and she sized it up immediately, took Kirsten’s passport and began filling something out on the computer.  She picked up the phone and shortly had everything in order.  She even printed the boarding pass and called someone to take Kirsten’s checked bag.  Crisis averted.

Lisa cried as we left Kirsten in the hands of the Emirates staff at the security gate.  It was difficult to watch her go but I think I was more excited for her than anything else.  She is about to have one of the coolest summers ever.  When I reflect on my childhood I often think I had one of the best but it can’t compare to Kirsten’s.  I had unprecedented freedom growing up – Kirsten not so much but this experience is about to change that I think.

The flight is just over 14 hours.  It is nearly midnight and we are texting with Tim who is at the Seattle airport as we wait to be sure that she makes it alright.  Okay, maybe she won’t have “unprecedented freedom” as we track her every move through social media and the wonders of modern telecommunication.  It is freedom of a slightly different sort than I had.  If her childhood is the equivalent of a well funded star athlete with coaches and trainers and the finest equipment mine was more of the street hockey version with sears catalogues duct taped to the goalie’s shins and tin cans marking the goal posts.

I suggested that when she gets to Quesnel that she could go to my dad’s and grab my bike.  I tried to help her get a sense of where my parents, Lisa’s parents and my sister Robyn live by using Google Maps.  I figure she can use the bike to get around town and visit people.  Tim and Julie no doubt would be glad to drive her wherever she’d like to go but being able to get places on your own is liberating.  I can picture her riding to the rec centre pool in Quesnel with her cousins or riding over to the mall to rent a movie.  Its like that well trained athlete jumping in for a pick up game.  Sure she’s got skills and endurance but there is always something to be learned when the rules are a little loose and there is no ref with a whistle.

Enjoy the game Kirsten!  Play hard and have fun.  I wish I could be there with you but my childhood is gone.  Thanks for letting me recapture some of it through you.