Tell me, how do you celebrate an anniversary? A romantic dinner? A special long-saved-for gift? Sweet huh? It’s ‘paper’ for a first wedding anniversary, isn’t it?
Not if your husband’s an aviation nut. So it didn’t surprise me when mine suggested we each take an introductory flying lesson on our first year wedding anniversary. But it floored me that I agreed to it. (The bottle of prosecco we’d polished off might have had something to do with it.)
My instructor Brian is a good-humored man with (thankfully) many years’ experience. His easy-going, friendly style of instruction is no doubt an attempt to try and soothe my inner turmoil. That is, if he can tell I’m terrified, he’s great at hiding it.
After we get strapped in (the Cessna 152 gives a whole new meaning to ‘intimate’), Brian takes me through the basic workings of the plane, my head nodding maniacally throughout (trying to shake out old episodes of ‘Air Crash Investigation’ you see). Brian called into the tower in confident captain-esque tones, then mentioned the "decent cross-wind" that might make for a bumpy ride. "Oh", I chuckled, "I can handle it."
How wrong I was.
Our little aircraft is assaulted the moment we leave the ground. Mild turbulence it isn’t, as the Cessna yoyoes up and down like a giant pogo stick. Then somewhere during the climb, Brian, in a moment of suicidal madness, hands me the controls - OMG.
He does a great job of ignoring my complete freakout, as I jerk the controls every which way. All I can think is 'whose bloody idea was this?' Damn that prosecco! Somehow we make it to 1,000 feet, and I breathe again - the longest minute of my life is over.
But then, once you’re up, you’re up! And yes, I admit the view is incredible. Against every instinct, I force myself to do most of the flying – its what I signed up to, isn't it? Not that different to those heady vows I took a year earlier: to go the distance with my husband through good and bad, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives.
Like I say, heady.
Learning to fly is not unlike marriage. No matter how grounded you are, how long you’ve known each other, or how deeply in love you think you are, taking that plunge can shake even the toughest of people. As I so quickly found out, it certainly doesn’t stop at ‘I do’.
In flight, you need to keep one eye on your surroundings and the other on your instruments. Tricky huh? Once in position, the plane will naturally fly itself but like life, those darned external factors meant that she can veer off-course easily.
Love though can be even more awkward – I mean, how can you be sure you’re heading in the right direction? At least in the Cessna I have a compass...
In between my instructor’s prompts, I remind myself to just relax, enjoy the ride. In so many parts of life, we veer between extremes of caution and abandon, and can forget to take in the view along the way.
They say a good pilot will scan all her instruments regularly, realigning where needed, a little at a time. And in marriage too, isn’t that a good principle to live by?
How do you and your partner celebrate the highs and lows of your relationship?
(And if you've any ideas as to how we can mark the next anniversary, please shout! A trip through the Amazon collecting venom samples? A class in redback-spider juggling?)