MY MOTHER WAS a stewardess during the days when nobody thought of using any other word to describe the stylish, attractive young ladies who wore stilettos, served cocktails and smiled winningly at equally-stylish passengers. A country girl from Montana, my mother had graduated high school and begun teacher’s college, only to be wooed away by a representative from Northwest Orient Airlines who, quite literally, promised her the world.
In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, until age 30 and an impending marriage to my dad placed her into forced retirement as per company policy, my mother put her sexy, high-heeled self in the aisles of every modern aircraft of that era. She flew businessmen to Tokyo, well-to-do families to Hawaii and scores of soldiers and airmen to Alaska. During a time of civil unrest and global misunderstanding, she toured the far reaches of our planet and returned time and time again to her enviable apartment on the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle, wiser to the world.
Lookin' fly: Erin's mom (left) with a fellow "stew"
While she was through flying by the time my brother, sister and I arrived, mom did have particular goals in mind for her offspring’s introduction to travel as a whole. With a passport full of stamps and a well-worn Samsonite, my mother had experienced travel from both a passenger and personnel perspective. She made sure we understood our responsibility as members of the globetrotting public.
Be responsible for thyself. From packing our own clothes to carrying our own spending money, my parents allowed us the freedom, and subsequent consequences, of our choices. Each of us had our own suitcase, packed and unpacked it ourselves, and knew what lay within. Dad taught us the navigation with map and compass, but it was mom who taught subtle nuances of communicating effectively with people. Confidence came through experience, and I am truly thankful for that.
Be presentable, always. Coming from a time when flying was considered akin to fine dining, mom made us dress up to board an aircraft, and to a certain extent, I still participate in this exercise. Customer service is better, I feel better about myself (and my family), and my professional image is just a whole lot finer when I’m not slouching through a terminal in sweats and flip flops.
Be respectful to all you meet. Ranging from hotel front desk staff to the lady cleaning the restroom at a train station, respect is paramount for travel success. Travel is a privilege, mom believed, and we better show our appreciation for those people who make it enjoyable. One of my earliest memories is my mother chatting with the porter aboard an Amtrak train bound for Missoula, Montana, and his “Thank you ma’am, for taking the time to talk to me, most people are in such a hurry.”
Go anywhere you want. If a small-town young lady can see the world, why not me? Why not any of us?
Celebrate Alaskan moms this weekend and visit AKontheGO.com for a complete list of Fun Friday events and happenings around the state.