A lot of people buy sports cars or elaborate vacation homes when they reach their mid-life crisis.
My father chose to take up skydiving.
He spent his week commuting to work in his fabulous, pre-owned, 2003 Ford Taurus – a car our family so wonderfully dubbed, the Golden Gladiator – he spent the weekend riding in a different type of vehicle. One that happens to elevate over 12,500 feet above ground level.
While your parents may have had to extend their car insurance policy to encompass that new Porsche or Corvette, my mother had to sign off on a life insurance policy. You know, just in case my dad died mid-flight or whatever.
On my twenty-first birthday, my dad walks into my room with a question, “How would you feel about going skydiving?”
I weighed my options, thinking to myself, “Is this something I really want to do? Jumping out of a plane is a pretty serious activity. And totally dangerous. I don’t know if I want to take that kind of risk…”
That is completely false. As soon as the question left his mouth, my voice was already in full-fledged, freak out mode.
“UMMMMMMMMMMMMM, are you serious? HOW CAN I NOT GO SKYDIVING?!?!?! Tell Mr. Shaw, the butler, to clear my schedule. TODAY, I WILL BE WITH THE CLOUDS!”
And was in the front seat, buckled up, and had posted a Facebook status before he even finished his sentence.
It’s a pretty well-known fact that I am completely obsessed with clouds. Like, I know everything about them. Cumulonimbus, altostratus, fog, you name it, I love it. So when I heard the words ‘sky’ and ‘diving’ come out of my father’s mouth, you better believe that I immediately jumped (no pun intended, but totally intended) at the chance to hang out in higher altitudes.
We get to the ranch, which is essentially a giant field enclosed by a wooden fence, and go to this hut to check in. My dad elects to have my first attempt at sky flight filmed and photographed, “You’re going to want to look at this later, trust me, kid.”
My father calls me kid. I don’t know why. I guess I am still a child… mentally?
I get harnessed and strapped six ways to Neptune, then meet the guy who is essentially responsible for my life. He is no shorter than six-foot-three, skinny, and extremely Russian.
“Hello, I am Lars, I will be your tandem.” He tells me as he pulls up his goggles away from his eyes.
He hands me what looks like a leather yamika with straps, and points at my hair, “Put this on your head. Your hair is wild. I don’t want that curly bun my face.” Then handed me a pair of plastic goggles. These looked more like a see-through bikini a doll would wear on vacation than something I’d use to cover my eyeballs.
We march to the plane, and take our seats inside. The plane takes off, and all I see is the field getting smaller and smaller. We reach the desired altitude, and they swing open the side door.
The videographer stands up, snaps a picture, and holds on to the bar on the side of the doorway.
“Are you ready?” Lars asks me before interrupting my answer, “It doesn’t matter, because you are strapped in you see? You go where I go. And we are going down.”
I am completely strapped in to this man. We have to move our legs in unison to take steps forwards towards the doorway. We are inches away from free falling.
Then he says the most magical words I’ve ever heard, “Do you want to go through a cloud, or wait and go around it?”
“UMMMMM. I want to go through a goddamn cloud.”
The videographer jumps out of the plane, and we rock back and forth and “THREE… TWOO…”
He doesn’t even wait until 1 to push off the landing and into the open air. My face is being slapped seven ways to Sunday with wind in every direction. I see the videographer below me, snapping pictures, so I give my best thumbs up.
I feel my cheeks being pushed backwards towards my ears, inevitably making me look like a chipmunk. But I don’t even care, because we jumped right smack dab into the middle of a big ass cumulonibus cloud.
Realizing this, I look straight into the video camera and scream, “OH MY GOD, I AM IN A CLOUD. I AM IN A [EXPLETIVE] CLOUD!”
Turns out, playing the video back, you can’t hear me, you can only see me mouthing the words and doing rapid hand movements which I assume means I was just really excited.
We were freefalling for what felt like a lifetime, but was actually probably thirty seconds when Lars called out, “MEG. PULL THE PARACHUTE.”
And just like I practiced, I unloaded the parachute – like a champion, I might add.
We coasted under the parachute for another minute or two until we were in clear sight of the landing spot. I didn’t realize how awkward the whole man-strapped-on-your-back thing was until I wasn’t hopped up on adrenaline, realizing it was all ending soon.
Approaching the landing, I did as I was taught, and made sure my feet were lifted off the ground, as to prevent any broken legs. We landed, Lars freed me from my buckle harness, and gave me a high five. “Did you have fun?” He asked.
The answer was obvious, but I couldn’t put my feelings into words.
It was even better than I imagined.