Thank You Maia!


I have just got off the plane for this trip and I am waiting for another MESSENGER Fellow to fly in from Manchester. I thought I was done blogging for the immediate future until something happened with the other Fellows or at mission control. However, I was proven wrong within 10 minutes of shutting down my computer so that I could board my plane. After taking my seat,(the middle seat between two other gentlemen – and I am not a small guy) I found myself sitting behind THAT CHILD. You know the one, the one who’s decibel range was between 100 -115 Db at all times and moves so often that there are friction burns on the seat after they leave. Every plane has one. I think it’s required by FAA regulations. I remember one Christmas when my usually energetic sister-in-law deplaned after a 4 hour flight from Oakland to Rochester – where her young daughter had been THAT CHILD. I don’t think I pitied anyone so much in my life as I did at that moment. This girl was accompanying her sister, parents and grandparents to Disney World. And she was seated in front of me next to the window with her grandparents. I was not worried however. I always fall asleep within minutes of getting on a plane. I am blessed by the ability to fall asleep anywhere, any-when without the worry of being awoke by noise– usually. Thank goodness it did not work this time.

The five year old girl, Maia was her name (I knew her name within the first few minutes on board) was a bundle of energy. She wanted to know everything. I at one time counted at least five questions that she asked in less than 30 seconds. To their credit, her grandparents (especially her grandmother who was seated next to her) tried answering each one. It was wonderful to watch and listen to. Such unbridled enthusiasm and excitement was awe inspiring to watch. I have often joked that all children have this lust for learning and that it must be beaten out of them because by the time they get to me in high school, they just want out. I do my best to bring this excitement back out but I don’t always win. I never heard a peep out of Maia’s sister who was sitting in front of Maia, so I cannot say whether or not she was excited. However I did a lot of looking around, especially after Maia would shriek at something new she saw through the window. On a fully loaded plane, I did not see one other person enjoying the Maia Show. This was too bad. Because there was nothing more important going on on that plane. I was in desperate need of sleep and yet I continued to eavesdrop (it was not hard.) Upon liftoff Maia yelled out “I can see the whole world from here!” And her parents and grandparent tried unsuccessfully to “Shhh” her. But as I thought about what Maia had yelled I thought about the wonder in her voice. Here I was going to be a part of a historic mission with NASA in less than 24 hours and I could only hope to have that much excitement in my voice when I see the first photos of Mercury.

As I looked around the plane and saw the passengers faces I felt sorry for them. I often wonder what is happening in people’s lives that they feel the need to go through life with a scowl on their face. One of the proudest moments in my life was when a teacher I respected, but was a suit and tie ex-marine type of teacher, became an interim vice principal. When we met after his formal observation of me, I was incredibly nervous. You see, I am a geek-shirt Friday type of teacher, often unshaven and many times with unkempt hair. I was terrified because I really respected his opinion and I knew he was not overly sympathetic to my style. I needn’t have worried though. The first thing he said to me was that in his entire career (30+ years) he had never seen someone smile so much while they taught. He said my smile was infectious and he watched as my students caught it. His comments brought me to the memory of all the times people had commented on me and my smile. I have had a lot of things happen to me in my life, but nothing gets me down. I think I am that way because of the number of times I have been near death (and it is a lot.) During my flight, I watched Maia’s grandparents smile as they tried to reign her in. I thought of my own grandparents when they were alive and my wife’s. There is something about becoming a grandparent that allows that inner child and excitement and wonder back out. Maia’s grandparents were experiencing not only her sense of wonder, but their own. I watched as Maia,s grandfather started to playfully tease her mother, who was seated in front of him. He would tickle the back of her neck or pull her hair – and Maia’s mom loved it. When I saw this family’s interaction I knew I had to write about them, and so at the end of the flight I introduced myself and explained that I would be blogging about their granddaughter. I knew I sounded strange but I wanted to let them know that their little one had such a positive effect on a perfect stranger.

Thank You Maia, and when I shriek “I can see the Whole World from here!” at MESSENGER mission control it is dedicated to you and your wonderful family. I hope you have a great time at Disney World and never lose your sense of awe and wonder.

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