Last Wednesday, Paul and I headed to the airport to catch a flight for Albany, NY. The first thing we did when we boarded and settled was to fasten our seatbelts.
Not that I flew a lot as a kid, but the first time I saw seatbelts on a plane, I was not impressed. I couldn’t imagine what good they would do, but after seeing the news lately with the turbulence and the injuries suffered by those who weren’t wearing their seatbelts, I get it.
Every car we had when I was growing up had the seatbelts cut out. My dad would drive the new car home, pull out a pocket knife and cut them out. When I was a baby, anytime we went on a car trip, I was not buckled in; I slept on the backseat on a blanket or in the back window. I imagine that I must’ve looked something like a cat lounging in a pool of sunlight. When Paul and his siblings were babies, their mom put them in a laundry basket on the front seat. It seems crazy now.
When Madi was little, she was locked into a special seat with a five point harness. It, in turn, was locked into the car. My, how times have changed.
In 1983, I took the driver’s test to get my license. Seat belts were not legally required yet, but I had a friend who failed because she forgot to put hers on. Or at least that’s what she told everyone.
Now we look back and think how could we ever have not worn them. I have heard Princess Diana probably would have survived if she had been wearing hers.
My mother-in-law used to refuse to wear a seat belt because she said it would make her outfit wrinkled. I always countered with the fact that she would make a fashionable corpse.
I had never really thought about what seat belts actually do other than “strapping you in.” If another car runs into your car, the seat belt doesn’t protect you from the impact. What it does do is stop your body from continuing to move forward when the car stops its motion. They stop us from bouncing around the inside of the car, getting thrown out of the car, in other words, they protect us from the damage that being a human projectile would cause.
It’s much like what families do for us. They strap us in and keep us from being unsettled as much when there is turbulence in our lives. Maybe they offer advice, assurance, a place to stay, or a whole host of other things.
The safety they provide changes as we age. In the beginning they provide physical, emotional, and mental safety. As we age, sometimes it’s just knowing they are there IF we need them. Much like a trapeze artist, we hope not to need the safety net, but simply knowing it’s there lets us fly a little higher.
I mentioned on Sunday that this past week we were in Massachusetts, and we got to hang out with Paul’s brother and sister-in-law, his niece and her family. We got to catch up and reminisce. I realized another safety feature of family. It’s not always just safety going forward; they are a touchstone that grounds us; they remind us of where we came from, who we were, and that points to who we are.