Back When We Could Fly

Photo by:  Ben Sutherland

Photo by: Ben Sutherland

Out of the passenger side of the vintage VW van in front of us a hand suddenly stuck out of the window, fingers close together and cupped against the wind—surfing. The hand was small boned, delicate, a woman’s hand. 

A few minutes later from the driver’s side of the green van extended another hand. This one was larger, thicker in the wrist, but it was also cupped against the rush of wind—surfing.

My husband and I watched, amused, as the pair of hairs dipped and rocked in the stream of air outside their windows in front of us. A little later, from the backseat on the passenger side, a tiny, childlike hand emerged, fingers cupped against the wind, and then from the backseat on the driver’s side still another hand, only a bit larger.

The van looked as if it had sprouted wings of varying sizes from its open windows, and with the right mix of air and angle it might be able to take off at any moment and fly.

It was one of those great old VW buses, lime green and covered with bumper stickers, a relic of our hippie past. One of the bumper stickers was particularly poignant. It read Legalize Joy. I loved that bumper sticker and those wind surfing hands.

They made me realize that I hadn’t rolled down my window and felt the wind or the rain in a very long time. You see; I’ve been too worried about messing up my hair or getting too sweaty or been too busy listening to the bad news on the radio.

I’d also forgotten the importance of teaching those little hands in the backseat about wind surfing and other such important matters. I’d forgotten, what with so much of the world on fire and all. I wish I could have told the occupants of the VW van thank you for helping me remember about wind surfing.

It’s been a tough year in a stream of pretty tough years. And you know what I’d like to say to all those folks out there trying to burn down big chunks of the world and the people in it? I’d like to say what that WWII commander said to the Germans when they demanded the American’s unconditional surrender. I’d like to say, “Nuts.”

As far as I know joy is still legal. And as long as there are people who are still willing to roll down their van windows and teach their children about joy and other such vintage notions we might have a chance. I’d forgotten.

My hair is a little messier now, but my heart is better. I can’t wait to teach my grandchildren about wind surfing. 

                                            Photo by:  Adrien Millet

                                            Photo by: Adrien Millet

Linda (Flopsy) L. Zern


Linda successfully raised and homeschooled her four children back when homeschooling was considered the equivalent of living in a cave and wearing mastodon pelt shirts. She now tutors eleven grandchildren in reading, science, and the fine art of work, better known as mucking out the barn.

She is the author of an award winning children’s chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, a novella for middle graders, Mooncalf. Her award winning humor blog posts/essays have been published and recognized at

You can find Linda at, on her blogTwitter and Facebook.