A place for desire, an object of longing, a thing that symbolizes what you wish for – don’t we all have that? Some keep it a secret while some of us may talk about it so much that others tire of it. But somewhere deep in our hearts I’m sure it lives within each of us.
I have several, amidst them one I assume some of you can relate to: planes.
So, what is it that planes and airports and all things connected to it attract me like a moth to a flame? I thought about that last evening while I, amongst others, sat in the approach path of airport Berlin Tegel, camera at the ready. The trail of my thoughts was a string of perls that carried me far back.
I grew up in West-Berlin. The windows in the kitchen, where family life took place, faced The Wall. I spent a lot of my childhood time watching heartbroken the poor dogs guarding the so-called Todeszone (a stretch in front of The Wall where there was nothing but floodlights and armed men), running up and down on their long lesh, barking their loneliness into night and day. This and the roar of the planes flying overhead were often the only sounds in my neighborhood. The house in which we lived was located in the approach path of Airport Tegel.
Some evenings, my father and I sat in the kitchen, one of those very old radios on the table, the windows open. If the wind came from the right direction, we could listen to the tower of airport Tegel. We both spoke no English but the distorted sounds of pilots conversing with the tower were like a promise for another life. And some words like “ready to take off” even we both understood.
If the winds were wrong my father told me about his dad who had died in the last days of World War II. The grandfather I never knew had been a radio operator for Hitler’s air force and very glad, that this way he never had to raise a gun because he didn’t believe in war and despised the Nazi ideology. My father also told me about the times of Cold War and the Berlin Luftbrücke.
The first time ever my family travelled, we boarded a Pan Am flight to Munich. I remember vividly that I asked to use the toilet during the one hour flight several times – not because I was afraid but because I was desperate to find out where the water flushed to mid-air?
Maybe it started right there in my childhood, possibly it also had to do with growing up in a city surrounded by a wall, somehow caged in, that planes and airports became my objects for desire, my symbol for extreme wanderlust.
As teenagers we often drove to the airport just to sit there and drink something and pretend we were about to fly off. With a longing heart I watched people carry suitcases, passports, tickets.
Some warm summer evenings we drove to the direct approach path, just up to the fence of the airport. There we lay on the hood of the car, looking up at the planes that were so close to touching down that it felt as if you only had to stretch up your hand to be able to touch their bellies. The roar of the engines was immense. And shortly after they had passed, the heatwave of their engines washed over us and left the smell of kerosene on our palates.
After graduating from school I applied to Lufthansa to become a pilot. The answer I got was devastating. They told me no women were authorized for training as pilot. This was 1984.
Until today I often find myself looking up, watching a plane passing by, wondering where it is coming from and where it’s going to and wishing I were in it up in the sky
There are days I think about buying a ticket to whatever place, just to have that moment of lifting. This feeling of loosing ground, of getting weightless and knowing the sky is the limit.