Perhaps you remember when Robin Williams played Peter Pan in the movie “Hook,” the story about a grown man with two kids and a wife, a businessman who has forgotten who he is. There’s a line near the end when he’s finally leaving Neverland and the Lost Boys. During their goodbyes, one of the smaller boys exclaims, “THAT was a GREAT GAME!” describing their last adventure with Peter and Captain Hook. To me it summed up the movie perfectly.
Seems like after every road trip with my daughter Meg or yet another new ‘adventure’ with her, I feel like saying that. Because it always is! And this last time was no exception. The short story was that I would fly out to Albuquerque on Thanksgiving day, help her pack up her car and clean the house, and the next day we would begin our trek back to Florida, stopping at her brother’s in Edmond, just north of Oklahoma City, for a quick overnight before driving the rest of the way home.
Except early in the morning the day we were to leave, Meg really wanted me to see a New Mexico sunrise. Since I had gained two hours and I’m an early-bird anyway, I was up and ready to go well before I needed to be. She had a particular place in mind about 25 minutes south where she said it was the perfect spot. So off we went. The Albuquerque skies were were clear and star-studded, but as we drove south to Los Lunas, it became quite foggy as if we were driving into the clouds. I suggested we may not be able to see the sunrise here, but she wanted to keep going just in case it cleared. Finally, after driving through town and onto some dirt roads, she stopped the car, sighed, and said, “Well, I wanted it to be a surprise, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen now. We were going for a sunrise hot-air-balloon ride. Merry Christmas!”
I was stunned, and then I was so disappointed, and then so appreciative, all at the same time! Here we were with a helluva long drive ahead of us, but knowing how sad I was to have missed the balloon festival, she had arranged for me to go up in a hot air balloon! This kid!
After driving onto the field where the crew was, it was decided we would head back to Albuquerque where the weather was clear. We might miss the sunrise, but I didn’t care. I love anything to do with flying, and Meg knew it. She had decided if I was finally in Albuquerque, I was getting my first balloon ride. So back we went.
It was chilly and crisp. We rose to around 2600 feet, moving with the air in total silence until the burners were lit. I’ll never forget the quiet. Even with a basketful of people, it was quiet. I’ve been in big and small airplanes, open-cockpits and gliders. But this was different. And while I don’t like walking towards the edge of anything high up and looking down – my knees turn to jelly – I had no trouble in that basket. I don’t know why. It was just … peaceful. And yes, I did think of Dorothy and Kansas and Oz. How could I not?
After landing (with the help of a large bush and a lot of laughter) we were asked if we wanted to assist in packing it up. Slowly and carefully that gigantic balloon was deflated, folded, and repacked into a large canvas bag that weighed well over 400 pounds. Everyone took turns having their picture taken on it to get any remaining air out!
It was a short four days, but as always with Meg, we packed as much into them as we could. After three great highlights to the trip – getting Meg, the balloon ride, and seeing my son and his family – all I could think of was, “THAT was a GREAT GAME!”