Every year around this time, I struggle
to find new words to offer to our loyal FlyingTypers’
readers. I am not immune to the warm responses inspired by our annual
Christmas story, and I would be posturing if I said it doesn’t
feel good to know it is so well received. However, the pressure
mounts to say something new; to not rehash the things you already
know; to provide some meaningful insight into our holiday gathering.
You know we are a family business
in an age when most companies yearn to proclaim that simply for
the feel-good cachet it affords them. People love a good legacy
story. We just celebrated our 45th anniversary and no, you can’t
put a price on that. In a world where everything has been commodified,
you still can’t buy time or experience.
My father, mother, and I—sprinkled
with some help from my siblings—run the gamut of responsibilities
to keep Air Cargo News FlyingTypers current, interesting,
successful, and engaging, and we do it every hour of the day, every
day of the week, 365 days a year. This is not an exaggeration. I
return home for holidays and it has become routine to ‘take
a meeting’ in the living room with my father, whether it’s
pre-Thanksgiving dinner or post-New Year’s Day celebrations.
We have a drink and warm by the fire, and I have the bonus of petting
a very sweet dog when these conversations occur, but we are still
working. Time off isn’t just a luxury—it’s a frivolity.
You don’t become an industry leader lying on the beach.
This year of the Pandemic, I shook
my brain like a snow globe to see what new holiday tradition might
flutter to life and reveal itself as an interesting share.
So here for a few moments we suspend
disbelief as the story unfolds.
Our readers this past twenty years
that we have been sending this Christmas message might recall tales
of our Santa-decorating tradition; the pancakes; the sausage; the
presents; the tree; the movies; the pizza parties. What can I tell
you that you don’t already know? For as cloistered as our
family holidays can be—immediate family only—we routinely
open our proverbial doors to the FlyingTypers community.
So what haven't you heard?
My father talks about air cargo a
lot. He is the most dedicated, hard working person I know in the
air cargo business aside from my mother. If he isn’t talking
about air cargo, he’s talking about music, or aviation in
general. But air cargo and its people are always at the forefront
of his mind. The air cargo community is his great concern. And as
anyone who has sat down with him for an interview well knows, once
you get him started it’s best to just get out of his way and
let him go. You learn more that way.
I am not an aviation historian, and
my knowledge of air cargo barely breaks the surface of what my father
knows. It can be difficult, then, to engage in the conversations
he finds most comfortable. And here is where I tell you something
about our Christmas that you do not know, and have not heard.
Every year for the past several years,
I have accompanied my parents to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
in Forest Hills, Queens. I’m not remotely religious, but as
an introvert I enjoy the quiet, solemn atmosphere of the church,
where the common greeting is a subtle head nod and a slow blink.
I don’t particularly follow the services, either—I am,
admittedly, there for the choir songs, the music, the ceremony,
and the feeling of the environment, and I have a sneaking suspicion
my father is there for the same reason.
Built in the 13th century English
Gothic style, St. Luke’s has a high, vaulted ceiling with
wood beams that bend and bow inward, like the hull of a ship flipped
upside down. It’s a light, airy space, filled with rich, dark
wood and cool stone, and in the winter warmed and lit with dozens
of candles, which hold sentry at various perches around the church,
under windows, above aisles, and lined along golden candelabras.
father began attending St. Luke’s when he first moved to New
York from Chicago at the age of 11. It was at St. Luke’s that
he studied the catechism for children—every year, he points
to the uppermost peak of the church above the entrance and says,
“I studied in a small room called the narthex, with other
children who were all younger than me.” The beloved butter
cake we consume every year for Christmas began as a post-church
treat for my father. Back then, it cost him 99 cents and was purchased
from a German bakery on his walk back home.
My father’s “spiritual
guide,” as he calls him, was a dramatic, energetic man named
Reverend Thomas Blomquist, who once worked as a batboy for the Brooklyn
Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. According to my father, his
confirmation as a member of St. Luke’s did not result from
his understanding of the doctrine, but rather because “I knew
so much about baseball.” My father was confirmed with holy
water drawn from a clamshell baptismal font that still sits on its
pedestal today. It is so large I would not be surprised to learn
it originally birthed Venus on the shore. In writing this I learned
that Rev. Blomquist had served as a naval chaplain during World
War II; he brought the giant clamshell from the South Pacific when
he returned back home. Fifteen years old at his baptism, my father
was taller than the reverend, who had to reach up, standing on his
toes, to pour the water over his head.
To this day, my father claims “baseball
and butter cake” made him “as much a Christian as the
Baby Jesus,” but I think it was more than that. My father,
ever loquacious, always filled with information he longs to share,
grows solemn, respectfully—almost dutifully—silent when
we attend St. Luke’s on Christmas Eve. Air cargo, the subject
about which we have revolved our lives, retreats like a fog back
out to sea as we moor ourselves to the choir’s clarion call.
Music, my father’s other ever-present passion, rolls in and
permeates our thoughts. We open our hymnals and sing along, and
my father sings, and I imagine he remembers himself as a young boy
learning about faith, community, and being one with others. I imagine
this is where he learned how to create a space for the family he
would one day make, how to create a space for the cargo community—where
he learned to share, and listen, and quiet his mind. Every other
day of the year he animates with talk about lithium batteries, security,
historic preservations, and the wonderful companies with which we’ve
formed a cargo family. At St. Luke’s, for the two hours we
are singing, listening, and clearing our thoughts, a cleaner, uncomplicated
version of my father emerges. One that once walked himself home
after lessons in the stony narthex above a modest but beautiful
church, that talked baseball with a kind and loving spiritual father,
a boy who stopped at a German bakery for 99-cent butter cake.
On Christmas Eve, I share with my
father something other than air cargo. We sit and listen to exquisite
voices rising high to the rafters in harmony, we join our voices
to the stream of sound and let it fill us as it fills the space.
There is nothing quite like voices singing together on one of the
darkest days of winter. It does something to the mind and body when
you give yourself over to it—if you've ever wanted to feel
at one with those around you, go somewhere you can sing with people.
love you, air cargo, but I cherish the man who comes home from St.
Luke’s without the cargo monkey on his back. Geoffrey Arend,
Patron Saint of Air Cargo Reportage, inevitably reemerges on the
first of the New Year, but the cargo community should take comfort
in this brief respite. It’s what makes him so good at being
a part of this community—it’s the spirit that revives
his passion for the year.
We hope you enjoyed this peek into
another corner of our Christmas, and I can only hope to have something
new and interesting to share next year.
I suppose the story will be about
this unusual year when we gather at a distance for short periods
We can only hope and pray that you
stay safe, dear reader and find some comfort in whatever form your
gathering takes, as we all try and find a way to quality family
time whilst protecting each other from the deadly COVID-19 Pandemic.
Until then, FlyingTypers
wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy