“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” ― John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things
Living on Miami Beach in the servant’s quarters of a large estate, Mom was a domestic and nanny while dad attended the gardens and maintained the buildings. They were the Bohemians of the late 40’s and 50’s. Mom was schooled as an artist and Dad loved photography, but since neither of their interests paid much, jobs were whatever. On Mom’s day off, the two of us would walk to the beach and spend the day. As much as I loved the sand, sun and water, I’d look for the Goodyear blimp as it floated overhead. Shouting and waving to it, Mom would laugh and remind me that I was just a speck on the ground and that Mr. Blimp Man couldn’t see me. After all, I was only four years old.
Nearby, I attended kindergarten with all the rich kids. They had their stories of going to Cuba for the weekend on their yachts while their parents gambled in the casinos. I had my stories of how high I could climb the banyan tree in the park. One day my mom was called to school for a chat with my teacher, who apparently felt that my experiences needed broadening, to fit in better with my classmates, and could my parents work on that little issue. My mother assured her she would think of something and believe me she did.
My fifth birthday was approaching, and Mom and Dad had a big surprise planned for me.
Dad borrowed a car from someone and off we went for what seemed a very long ride. To add to the suspense, Mom put a blindfold on me as we made our approach. As the car stopped and the scarf removed from my eyes, there in front of me, tethered to the ground, with the captain standing by the door, was the Goodyear blimp. Together, my mom and I were to ride in that huge balloon, but it looked unfriendly on the ground.
Too big. I froze.
After much cajoling and coaxing, I climbed aboard. While the captain gave his speech, the blimp began to slowly rise. Sitting by the window seat, I wouldn’t look out. I started crying and said I wanted to go back, but it was too late. Now we were up high and over Biscayne Bay.
“Porpoises to the left, sharks to the right”, the captain announced.
I was too frightened to look. Instead, I sat huddled in the walkway where I couldn’t see anything. Sobbing, I felt sick to my stomach. Now, we were over Bay Front Park, the Eden Roc and The Fontainebleau Hotels, but all I wanted was to be safe on the ground.
Finally, the descent, which was all that mattered to me and my mother, by this time. When we landed, the captain muttered something to me, but I quickly bolted out the door. My dad’s smile turned to a look of “oh no” as I jumped in his arms. He just held me tight and told me it was alright. I think I made him sad.
Quietly, we got in the car and went for ice cream.
As I licked my chocolate cone, which was now the best part of my day, I remember listening to my mom and dad talk about the blimp ride. She mentioned the Orange Bowl Stadium and how large it was. She excitedly described the sensations of floating, the beautiful blue ocean with its abundant sea life, including sharks. She even talked about the famous hotels with their azure blue swimming pools and colorful cabanas.
She couldn’t wait to get home and paint what she had seen.
Dad asked me what I liked best, and the tears came flooding back. I told him I was scared.
The next day at kindergarten, all my friends were talking about their weekends. My friend Marilyn said that she went to her uncle’s cabana at the Eden Roc Hotel on Saturday.
All of a sudden I blurted out, “I saw the Eden Roc and your cabana from The Goodyear blimp.”
“You’re lying.” Marilyn replied.
“I’m not lying. I even saw porpoises and sharks in the ocean. I also saw the Orange Bowl. It was fun. We were up high and rode for a long time.”
“Weren’t you scared”?
“No, my mom was with me and it was my birthday present.”
Just then, I looked up and saw my mother standing in the doorway holding a cake with five candles. I remember telling everyone that riding The Goodyear blimp was the best birthday ever.
Mom was grinning from ear to ear.
** My father was discharged from the Navy in 1946, the year we moved from Indiana to Miami. He had his basic training in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and was familiar with the Goodyear blimp’s role in surveillance of our coastline to protect our merchant fleets.
I wrote this story a few years ago in a memoir writing workshop. After just having been to Cuba recently, the story came back to life.
When I think of the sacrifice my parents made to make that birthday present possible, it really humbles me. But, I’m afraid the Goodyear blimp was just too big for little me. At least I enjoyed it vicariously.
Today the Goodyear airships are based in Pompano Beach, Florida; Carson, California; and Akron, Ohio.
Lynn, this is such a beautiful story – it brought tears to my eyes. The perfect metaphor for adulthood and it’s many challenges, in a way 😉 Your parents sound gorgeous.
Oh, sorry (not again!) – Lynne!
Your sentiments are so sweet and encouraging, Alarna whether you spell it Lynn or Lynne. Yes, my parents were free spirits for awhile and then life happens…they get real jobs and enter the real world., but they were great parents, always encouraging me to do what is unique and challenging.
Oh, how I remember the Goodyear Blimp! It was always exciting to see the blimp floating along. Miami, at that time, had a small town feel and that was one of our local special experiences. Your parents sound wonderful.
Those were great times, Dianne. Miami was special then. You’re right…a small town feel.
what a unique memory, and what a loving gesture they did – only to find that their sweet sensitive daughter had sensory overload!!! you wouldn’t be the special person you are had you been less sensitive!
thanks for sharing this precious story!
Thanks, Lisa. The class system didn’t make it easy (and still doesn’t). Years later when my mother and I discussed this story, she was disappointed in not standing up to the teacher for making her feel like she was an unworthy mother…who couldn’t afford to provide the best for their kids. But, she was not a confrontational person, knowing there is a ripple effect for being so.
This is beautiful, Lynne. It says to me “be careful what you wish for”. I always love these balloons and actually got to ride a tethered one in Krakow a couple of years ago. Even then, as a grown up, I was holding tight to the sides, so I can well imagine your 5 year old terror. I would love to try the free floating experience too, but know I would be terrified.
Funny how quickly we can turn it around to a bragging experience as kids! I could hug your mum and dad. 🙂
I was such a tomboy that my parents were probably surprised by my sudden timidness. Yes, we kids have a way with bragging rights and can turn the tables. I’m just glad my mom heard me.
Quite delightful reminiscences, Thank you Lynne!
Thank you Elaine. I have missed your reminiscences and hope you will be posting soon. How is your book coming along?
This is such a touching story, Lynne. Thanks for sharing it with us. Oh, how our perspectives change as we grow older. I was in Pompano Beach last December and the Goodyear Blimp was circling the beach. Next time I see the blimp, I’ll certainly look at it through the eyes of a child…too big!
I had no idea the blimp was stationed in Pompano Beach until I went on Goodyear’s website. Maybe I should put my big girl pants on and give it another go. 🙂
Am sitting here after reading this and for the tenth time i have told my self, this is just a story, but why does it speak to me so deeply!
Thank you for your visit and your kind comment, Lyll. Reading someone’s else’s life experiences sometimes helps us remember something of our own past.
I love your story, Lynne. Did your Mom paint what she’s seen from the blimp? What an exciting but scary birthday treat you had. 🙂
I don’t remember ever seeing any art work associated with the story, but she loved using a palette knife. She did a lot of Florida scenes; maybe I just missed it. I do wish I was braver about the blimp ride because I was such a tomboy. They probably were counting on that.
Lynne, what a touching tale and delightful memory! It brought a smile to my face this evening. Thank you.
My pleasure, Tricia. Writing memoir can be challenging and fun when their is an adventure involved. Good to hear from you.
I always dreamt of going on one when I was little. although I would have probably been just as terror stricken 🙂 Thank you for sharing this beautiful story Lynne. Your parents sound most special.
Being a tomboy, I believe my parents thought I was a good candidate for the blimp ride. Yes, my parents were pretty special and knew how to have fun with little money. Thanks for commenting., Madhu. Nice to know someone else dreamed of a ride on the Goodyear blimp.We’ll just have to put our big girl pants on and do it while we can. 🙂
What an interesting childhood, Lynne. Your parents sound like wonderful people who had the courage to follow their dreams, and the wisdom to re-enter the real world when it was necessary to do so. I enjoy reading of the adventures you and Ron are able to experience as free-spirited residents of today’s world.
Dear VB, thank you for your response. Mom and Dad’s break from a traditional life became the talk of the family, I’m afraid, but they did their thing and encouraged me to do the same.However, they insisted I get a college education which I gladly did. I was highly motivated thanks to them.
Oh, what a beautiful story!!! And so sad and so picturesque and so … beautiful! I love it Lynne! Told so … beautifully! 🙂 🙂
Hello Gigi. Beautifully said. 🙂
Wow – loved how you made mum feel very proud of her efforts there in the end . Bless you for trying 🙂
I guess I turned it all around into a big moment for us both with my pretending how wonderful the trip was, but I had to save face with the kids.Turned it into bragging rights. thanks for your sweet comment, Natasha.
Such a wonderful story. I have not heard about the Good Year’s role in surveillance of US coastline before. Now I have a feeling like some pieces come together…
“Mom was grinning from ear to ear” is priceless 🙂
Actually there were three blimps used during that time for radar detecting German subs and for surveillance. I still can’t believe I rode the blimp. Just wish I were braver. I know my parents were counting on it since I was such a tomboy. Thank you for your visit and comment.
Thank you Lynne, for this delightful look into your childhood. It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? We took our 5 year old son up the famous Table Mountain in Cape Town and all he could remember was being sick in the cable car! Happy 4th of July!
Sorry for the slow response. Have been out of town. We remember those stories like they happened yesterday and our children remember theirs, mostly the fear and being sick. Thanks for your comment, Elaine.
What a lovely piece, I hurt for you and your parents at the same time, but glad you were able to make them happy and think back on it all fondly. 🙂
Hello Miranda and thank you for your kind words. It’s time to get those stories down, lest we totally forget.
Beautifully written, Lynn. The unconditional love of parents always amazes me & most times brings tears to my eyes. This is a brilliant piece. Well done.
Now that my parent’s are both gone, I wish I could tell them over and over how much that experience meant to me…year’s later. Thank you Tahira for your kind remarks.
Thank you for your comment and visit. Happy travels to you both.
Thank You 🙂