A boy on the airplane

Several years ago, I was on my way back to Tokyo from a trip to London, England. I had a window seat. As I settled down and read through the safety booklet (my golden ritual), a young boy and his mother came and sat next to me.

The boy was about three years old. He sat next to me while his mother took the aisle seat. It was going to be this boy’s first flight experience. He was looking here and there as he stretched his tiny body on his seat.

As the plane took off, however, the boy became restless. I often hear that young children are particularly sensitive to the change of physical environment. Probably, this boy was also feeling uncomfortable as the air pressure changed and all the background noises started.

But he was coping. Once the plane stabilized, he started to watch movies with his mother’s help. In the darkened cabin, I don’t recall him sleeping even for a moment. He spent the entire 11 hours of flight watching movies except for food and bathroom breaks. Sometimes, the movie he was watching was scary, and he would cling to his mother saying “Mommy, this is scary!” And I would smile next to him.

Toward the end of the journey, he started to whine. His mother would take him on a small walk around the cabin whenever he started to whine. Then the boy would calm down for a while until the next wave of discomfort kicked in.

Finally, the long flight came to an end. We were landing at Narita International Airport.

It was a most beautiful sunny day of spring. The local time was around 10 am. As we landed and moved toward the gate, the pilot gave us an announcement. When he closed the message with a greeting “good morning, and enjoy the rest of your trip,” the boy’s mother spoke to her son cheerfully. “Did you hear that? They’re greeting you, honey. They say ‘good morning’!”

The boy was quiet. When I turned to him, he was sitting up straight and looking out of the window. His eyes were wide open with curiosity. Then, we heard him speak. “Mommy, I like flying with an airplane.” He said it with such a happy face that it made me smile. His mother replied to the boy. “Well, Mommy isn’t so sure if she wants to do it again, sweetheart!”