I woke up late that Saturday. The sun was already high in the sky, and the rays were now piercing my bedroom window. I was still in high school, and this rude awakening was nothing out of the ordinary.
As I slowly became aware of the time, my eyes opened quickly. I felt a rush of excitement!
“Yes!” Today is the day.
I took a quick shower, pulled on comfortable clothes, and jumped downstairs to find my mother already awake. She was sipping a coffee, relaxing in her bathrobe with a worried look on her face.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!” I ran over and gave her a hug. She hugged me back, and, even though she was now smiling, I could still see the worry in her eyes.
The only other time I remember seeing this expression on her face was after I had just received my license and was taking the car for a drive by myself.
“Excited about later today?” I asked her.
“Very excited dear,” she replied. After a pause, she pulled me in for another hug. “I’m so glad you’re my son. You’re crazy, and that’s why I love you.”
As I finished my breakfast, I grinned to myself thinking back to three weeks ago when I sat in that very spot, wondering what I was going to do for Mother’s Day. A card just didn’t seem like enough.
I wanted to do something really incredible. I wanted to knock my mother off her feet.
Just a week later, I had my answer.
And today, it was all becoming a reality.
My mom is, in general, a calm and collected person. She doesn’t regularly do anything “crazy” and she is always making sure everything is happy, relaxed, and well taken care of. She is a nurse by training, and this is where her personality flourishes. For as long as I can remember, my mom always knew just how to take care of my brother and I whenever we got a cut, ran through a sea of poison ivy, or (on the rare occasion) burned ourselves.
My mom has always managed to keep my brother and I away from anything too dangerous, and I’m glad to say that she succeeded. Today, however, was Mother’s Day, and I had different plans.
“Okay, it’s 1:30! We’d better get on the road,” I called as I marched to the other side of the house to alert my dad.
My brother joined us as well, and our whole family hopped into the old VW Van my father had proudly kept since the 80’s. As we were sliding the side door shut, Daisy (our German Shorthaired Pointer) leapt in as well.
Once on the road, my dad turned us towards the ocean. Traveling along we beach, we always see the beautiful sand dunes. Some are hundreds of feet tall. There’s one near the highway that always has messages written on it by strangers in the night. Usually it’s a love note of some kind. Today it said, “I love you Mom!”
After enjoying the scenery for about thirty minutes, we arrived at our location. It was nothing more than an old aircraft hangar adjacent to one single, dismal, runway.
Stepping inside, we were greeted by a smiling man who promptly introduced himself.
“Steve,” his hand out to meet mine. “And you are Nico and Elizabeth, correct?”
We confirmed his guess, and he motioned us over to a pair of harnesses. My mom and I laughed at the impossible spider web of ropes and straps in front of us, but with help from the instructors, we both managed to ensnare ourselves correctly.
“Mom, are you ready?”
“Yes!” She responded enthusiastically. “Son, I love you. I’m so grateful to be able to share this experience with you.”
Steve called out for us to form a circle around him. My mother, me, and six others in harnesses moved towards the open hangar door where he stood. After we went over all the basics (stay calm, follow instructions) and our harnesses were double-checked, we all patrolled out of the hangar towards the loud growl of a small airplane taxiing towards us.
We filed onboard, the door was sealed, and the plane pulled off towards the beginning of the runway. There was nothing to do now but go with the flow.
The engines on this small plane were deafeningly loud. After it had lost contact with the ground, the floor tilted upwards at nearly 45 degrees. Those engines tore violently through the air to bring us up to 18,000 feet as quickly as possible.
I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I was surprised to see that my mom looked calm. I threw her a big thumbs-up. She gave me a big smile and threw me two back.
“Partner Up!” The main instructor shouted over the deafening roar. Each person’s instructor proceeded to latch their harnesses together. We were getting close.
It was only then I realized that, as I was the last to board the plane, I was closest to the door. I did the math. Last one in, first one out.
When we hit 18,000 feet, the side door swung open and the full force of the atmosphere hit us all. The noise grew louder. As my instructor and I walked to the door, I could hardly hear his voice shouting safety instructions.
Standing on the ledge looking out over the vast expanse of sky below me, I felt a rush of adrenaline surge through my body. I was about to let go of the airplane. I was about to trust my entire life to a few yards of nylon string and a tarp packaged in my instructors backpack.
I released my grip from the overhead bar. My instructor shouted the countdown over the blare of the engines. 3!…… 2!…… 1!…… I launched out of the opening, away from the plane, and into the endless blue sky.
The plane was traveling so quickly that I felt I was being sucked into an incredibly rapid and turbulent river. Everything was a blur. I don’t remember seeing the plane as we fell, but my instructor said that we did a full flip as we leapt.
As we reached terminal velocity, I felt my stomach churn. The feeling of zero gravity mixed with the rush of the atmosphere was nearly indescribable. The view as we fell was breathtaking. I had seen this portion of the California coast many times on Google Earth as well as out of the window on some trans-continental flights. The full 360-degree view, however, and the feeling of the environment itself tearing past me, was something entirely unique.
Throughout the 30 seconds of freefall, I was shocked to realize that I was unafraid of hitting the ground. I was sure that this would be my biggest fear once I was out of the safety of the plane, but it was so far away and the experience was so beautiful, the thought never crossed my mind.
When we reached 8,000 feet, my instructor pulled the chute. The screaming air died to a low murmur against the released cloth, and we slowly spiraled down towards the earth.
When my feet finally hit the ground and the parachute fell in the dirt behind us, I could hardly walk because of the adrenaline. I felt as light as a feather.
My dad, brother, and dog were all there to meet me, as well as some family friends my dad had told about the jump last minute. I was so glad to see them all, and we waited together for my mom to touch down.
When she finally hit the dirt, she had a big smile on her face. I loved that. After she broke away from her crowd of adoring fans, the two of us walked off a little ways, arms around each other’s shoulders, talking about how the jump felt for each of us.
“Son, you’re crazy. And that’s why I love you. I would never have done this if you hadn’t pushed me all up until today. I’m so proud to call you my own.”
“I love you mom! Not many of my friend’s parents would do what you just did. You know… this probably makes you the coolest mom in my class.”
“Oh, I hope so! I’ll be able to ask all of them ‘Why haven’t youuuu gone skydiving? Come on, it’s not that scary.’ Yes, I like the sound of that.”
“Mom! Jeez, I didn’t realize you could be so mean!”
“Oh don’t worry, I’ll tell them very politely. Sweaty, I had such a great day with you. I will always love sharing these experiences with you.”
“I love sharing them with you, mom. But, be careful what you ask for. You have idea what I have planned for you next year!”
(Photos courtesy of Nico and Elizabeth)