Category Archives: People Who Fly

EMMA CHRISTINA: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 19 October 2017

The oval, cut-glass bowl on the top left came from Goodwill in Greenport, NY. The gorgeous cut-glass dish on the top right belonged to my father’s mother, my Grandma Emma Christina. She gave it to my mother, Carol, and now, finally, it’s been passed down to me!

The two pretty dishes on the bottom came from Deseret Industries, a thrift store in Utah. The rectangle tray, on the left, is pressed glass. The oval fanlight or sunburst on the right is cut glass.

When you’re traveling cross country by airplane, like I did earlier this month, you have to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage, and what to check.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

So, when I was flying on this trip, I carried with me my white Herschel backpack, the one I got on a fantastic sale at Urban Outfitters, which used to be by my work in downtown Salt Lake City. I paid $20 for a bag which was $75 normally.

Can we talk about pockets? “Because you know how a bear feels about pockets!”

One of the things I loved about my new backpack was all the pockets, right down to a fleece-lined pouch in the very top, perfect for sunglasses and reading glasses, a fleece-lined laptop slot, and all kinds of other little zippered and tabbed pockets, plus a key clip. It’s lined with red-and-white stripes, a signature of the Herschel brand.

Anyhoo, on this trip, in my backpack, I carried:
-some old family photos
-my mother’s little dark-blue suede high school diploma
-two pieces of her wedding silverware. (The dinner knife was confiscated by TSA and I had to mail it to myself from the airport.)
-Black Beauty, my treasured Fujifilm X30 camera
-a bunch of camera cards
-a composition book (I use them to plan events.)
-my keys
-my wallet
-my journal
-an assortment of pencils, pens, and Sharpies
-some snacks
-October issues of Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living. I love me some fall magazines, I do!
-my Chromebook, which fell out of my carry-on tote and into an overhead bin, getting left behind. It had to be retrieved by a ramp attendant, panic!

But in a separate black Barnes & Noble book quote tote bag, I carried some other pieces I treasure too much to leave behind, and far too much to put in checked baggage. Three dishes: one of them pressed glass, two of them cut glass. I have a large collection of pretty, clear-glass dishes, picked up at thrift stores for 50 cents here, $1 there. (It’s all Cami’s fault! Her mother got me started on this hobby. But that’s an entirely separate blog.)

But these three are my absolute favorites, and I simply must have them on my table at Thanksgiving this year. My pickles and olives demand the best!

Last October, as I was moving to New York, I was determined to take two of these favorite, fancy-glass dishes, and placed them on the table for last-minute packing in a carry-on bag. But, after a rough all-nighter of closing out my apartment into storage and suitcases, then turning the place over to Thing 1 and his best friend, I was just too tired, too rushed, and too stressed to pack them.

They got left behind on the table, and I’ve missed them so.

This past trip west, earlier this month, I went to Thing 1’s apartment in Salt Lake City to drop off a bag of BLT fixins from our favorite sandwich shop in New York. (That’s a story for another day. Or another blog, as well. Or whatever.) I ransacked his cupboards until I found the two dishes.

They were coming with me this time.

Up at my parents’ house in northern Utah, two of The Rockets helped me pack at the end of my stay, before driving me, my father, and Thing 2 to my friend Tina’s house, to spend the night before flying back to New York. What good friends I have, truly. Anita took the task of wrapping the three dishes carefully in newspaper and plastic grocery bags.

Pretty sure she wanted the chance to admire them up close, since she likes antiques as much as I do!

I can’t wait to see them on the table this Thanksgiving, holding Cranberry-Orange Relish, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and black olives…

Welcome to Emma Christina @ My Copper Kitchen! New features will be available on an intermittent basis, whenever I inherit a cool dish owned by my paternal grandmother, Emma Christina. I will also feature newly acquired dishes from her era which I think she would have liked.

She, a lovely Swedish lady who died before I was born, she loved cooking and gathering her many children around her Craftsman table, with its four leaves.

I’m told that sometimes, when Emma Christina felt bad and life was wearing her down, she would head to the Implement and put a nickel down on a dish. Kinda like me, her youngest granddaughter, heading to a thrift store and picking up something inexpensive to buoy my spirits, something special and beautiful, all for 50 cents…

“You know how a bear feels about pockets” is a line taken from the wonderful children’s book, A Pocket for Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman. I highly recommend it, and its predecessor, Corduroy, for all the children in your life.

The first book, Corduroy, was groundbreaking in that the main character, a little girl named Lisa, she and her mother are obviously not white, probably African American or Hispanic. They live in an apartment in the city, several flights up.

Considering the white-picket-fence, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dick and Jane books (used to teach children to read in the 1930s through 1970s), Corduroy is welcomingly inclusive of ethnic children who live in large cities.

Plus, Don Freeman’s artwork, scratchy black-and-white outlines, filled in with color, is truly delightful.

I love Herschel backpacks!

Read Finding 50: The Things I Carried, at:

Read more about Grandma Emma Christina at:
A Word About Windows

Learn how to make Cranberry-Orange Relish for Thanksgiving at:

The subtitle of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.

FINDING 50: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Claverack, NY  I  Tuesday, 17 January 2017

This tote contains my journals from age eight through my early marriage. The little red notebook was my first diary, and the navy blue corrugated notebook (placed spine down on the left) was my journal until 2002.

When you’re moving cross country by airplane, like I did last October, you have to decide what’s really important to take with you. For me, it was a pretty simple decision, because it had already been made years ago.

What do I mean? Well, I’m sure you’ve stopped and thought about what you would grab first if the house was on fire or if you were suddenly forced to evacuate, right? (This is, of course, after the people and pets were safe!)

What things would be irreplaceable? What things would you sorely miss?

I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and the things I would be devastated to lose have been packed away into totes for quite some time.

Years ago, I discovered Sterilite totes, and I love them. The lids come off easily if I want to view the stuff inside, and then they snap back on again, securely, if I want to carry the totes. If my place was to flood, my valuables in the totes would be somewhat more protected than if they were in cardboard boxes. And, bonus! The totes line up neatly and stack nicely, as well.

Anyways, there were three of us flying last October, moving Thing 2 and me from Utah to New York. I knew, according to Southwest Airlines’ rules, we could travel with a total of nine pieces of luggage for free: two checked pieces and one carry-on each. In a notebook I mapped it out, what to put in each of the small, medium and large suitcases.

I decided we would carry on the three plastic totes containing my most valuable things, packed in the small, carry-on suitcases. These are the things I would be heartbroken to lose, the things I couldn’t leave behind in a storage unit, the things I couldn’t even trust to pack into my checked bags.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all of my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

Along the same vein, once I had a backpack stolen while riding a bus, and it contained two of my journals. They contained four years worth of writing and I’m still upset about it. I was going through a really rough patch at the end of my marriage, and I agonized about it on paper, but I also wrote about my kids and other details of my life, too…

I’ve tried to console myself, thinking maybe the journals were meant to get lost. Maybe my posterity wasn’t meant to read these details of my life? Maybe they’re in the hands of someone who was meant to read them? Maybe they could help someone? But most likely they ended up in a trash can, and my loss still stings.

So, after all this, I decided there are certain things I will never trust to storage units or moving men or airline baggage handlers. I will carry certain things myself and not let them out of my sight.

So, I packed my clothes and beauty products and a few of my indispensable kitchen implements in the medium and large suitcases we would check, and my most treasured and important things, the ones from the plastic totes, they went into the three small suitcases we would carry on.

I also carried the boys’ yearly Christmas ornaments on the plane with me, in a tote bag at my feet. I’d been saving little bubble wrap pouches from work as I unboxed gift items for display, and they work great. I like them a lot because I can see through them to tell which ornament is inside. They work much better than the previous ornament-wrapped-in-a-paper-napkin-in-a-fold-over Baggie method. Ha!

It was a struggle to lug all this stuff onto the plane, since each suitcase contained a heavy tote and was difficult to hoist into an overhead bin. We left a wake of glaring passengers and disgruntled flight attendants, to be sure. But I didn’t care.

These are the things I carried.

This tote neatly stores all the boys’ formal photos: their first baby pictures from the hospital, photos from Kiddie Kandids, and all their school pictures. It also contains our birth certificates, immunization cards, and Social Security cards.


This tote contains journals from later in my marriage, the medium-sized ones lined up on the left. Also, the green notebook is from sixth grade, the red journal from ninth grade, and the navy blue binder took me from college through the mid-90s. Also, I started journals for both of my boys at the time I found out I was pregnant, and they’re the three thin ones near the navy binder. The canvas pouch contains various candid photos.


I probably need a fourth tote for the boys’ Christmas ornaments. As I unboxed gift items at my work, I saved small bubble wrap packages and used them to package each of the boys’ Christmas Santas and snowmen.


Wow, this was quite a move. Thank goodness for luggage carts!



The title of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.


People Who Fly, 2016


BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Salt Lake City, Utah  I  Thursday, 30 June 2016

Vicki sat speechless, released, overwhelmed. So this was flying. This was what people talked about with shining eyes and never were quite able to express. This wonder. This miracle. This beauty and power and awe-struck joy at being set free in the air.
-Silver Wings for Vicki, by Helen Wells

On Saturday we fly, and my soft pretzel money is burning a hole in my pocket. Our suitcases, the Scarlet Samsungs, are out of storage and ready to earn a few more scuffs.

As I type this, I’m propped up on my Water Garden bed, wearing a simple, silky black A-line nightie with a pattern of roses. I’m sure I bought this nightie more than twenty years ago. I remember wearing it when I was pregnant with Thing 1.

I’m also wearing that poncho, you know the one, the brown-striped one my sister Cheri gave me last November as I returned from my fall trip to New York. I like throwing it on when my shoulders are a little bit cold.

I can smell my cherry almond candle burning in my adjoining Beachy Bathroom, the candle I bought at the Salt + Honey craft show a few months ago. Cherry almond is one of my favorite scents, plus it came in a vintage deep red glass with a gold band around the top. Yes, please! How could I say no to THAT?

I can hear the planes, I can. The window behind me is open a few inches, and the planes are descending at Salt Lake International Airport. I love the sound, I do, it’s been a part of our lives for so long now. My children have grown up with the white noise of planes as the subtle soundtrack of their lives, since we moved to this neighborhood when Thing 1 was only one, and Thing 2 was yet a twinkle in my eye.

A lot has happened since my original post called People Who Fly, back in June 2015. Thing 1 is now graduated from high school and taking a year off from school, to work at a wonderful movie theatre (the snack bar offers great food like locally made gelato and handmade Asian salads and twisty bread sticks) and Thing 2 is going into eighth grade. My, the time does fly…(Pun intended!)

Last year, when we came home from our Seven Weeks of Summer in upstate New York, I didn’t know when we would fly again. I didn’t even know if Thing 1 would be able to go with us to New York next time, now he’s an adult and has a job and an active social life.

But this Saturday, at 7 am, we fly. We’re going back to New York, to my beloved Columbia County, for 17 days, and I can’t wait. To see the lush green landscape again, the shimmering Hudson River, and the gentle Catskill Mountains. To sit on the screened-in porch and be surrounded on three sides by more green. To sleep in the Winter Bedroom with the French door and orangey-brown pine floor, worn smooth with age, sleep in my new four-poster bed.

To see how my children’s faces glow around the roughly made fire pit in the back yard, where magical fireflies dance at the tip-tippy-top of trees, trees which touch the starry canvas of jet-black sky.


For the plane ride I have our adult coloring books all rounded up, accompanied by my still-wrapped set of Prismacolor pencils. Thing 2 will be coloring the national parks. As for me, I’ll be colorizing a copy of Little House in the Big Woods, with wonderful black-and-white illustrations by Garth Williams. I also have a cool New York City coloring book…

And Thing 1, he’ll probably be working on his figure drawing in a small black sketchbook he purchased at a technology college, when he was there a few months ago, representing his technical institute at a computer game design show.

I still remember, right after I separated from my kids’ father, Thing 1 went out and bought a composition book in which to practice drawing manga faces. He bought it with his own money, and at that point I knew he was going to be okay. Okay as a child of a single parent. Okay enough to safely express himself through art…

Did I mention we have TOO MANY art supplies at our house? Ha!

Anyhoo! Back on topic, the topic of flying.

The other day Thing 2 and I rode green TRAX, the light rail train, out to the airport for a look around. It was my day off and we’d been at the Department of Health, replacing the kids’ state-issued birth certificates. Dang it all, they’ve been in that Rubbermaid file tote for YEARS (the birth certificates, not my kids, ha!) and now, when I need them to get photo IDs for flying, they’re gone? What the, what the, what the heck? So, anyways, after this we decided to ride the train to the airport before going home.

It’s fun to gawk at all the different kinds of people who make up this world. The first people I saw were a group of brightly dressed Asian tourists. I kept seeing them everywhere, travelling in a colorful clump.

The next person I noticed was a beautiful flight attendant. I really wish I could have taken her picture, but doing that without her permission would have been kind of creepy, right? So, what IS it about flight attendants? Are they all born naturally beautiful and calm and poised, I wonder? They’re like models who serve you Sprite and peanuts as their silver-winged planes slice though the sky…

So, this lady. She wasn’t one of the younger ones, she was in her fifties, I bet. She was gorgeous and wearing a classically cut and very elegant looking navy-blue uniform. Her silvery blonde hair was pulled up and held in back with a clip, and her face was perfectly, but not overly made up.

I think it was her pearls that made me notice her, her long strand of big white pearls. The way she had it looped was so pretty, shorter around the neck and then hanging down long, with her name tag clipped to it.

She didn’t seem to notice me staring at her, thankfully, but I was wondering how soon I could get home and try something like this out with my own pearls…


Silver Wings for Vicki, by Helen Wells. Grosset & Dunlap, 1947. The first of a 16-book series about a young lady, Vicki Barr, who becomes a flight stewardess and flies around the world, solving mysteries. I loved these books when I was young!

People Who Fly. Find the original post here:

People Who Fly


By Valerie Belden Wilder
Written March 9th, 2015
Published June 12, 2015

I went to the airport the other night, to see The People Who Fly. Those people with passports and scuffs on their luggage and frequent flyer miles, those people who fly wearing flip flops and track pants, so very casually, as if flying is a given right and not a hard-earned, well-planned privilege.

I sat outside the gift shop and gawked at them, with their rolling luggage. I watched the shuttle drivers, holding aloft clipboards with passenger names for pickup. I envied the passengers heading towards the three silver luggage carousels, being met by smiling, anxious families and friends, and lovers running, bearing roses and outstretched arms for hugs…

I chatted with the TSA agent and asked 3500 questions about liquids, pat downs, luggage sizes, flying with children, arrival times. I chatted with the angel luggage check-in agent, and asked another 3500 questions.

Because, you see, New York is calling me home, after thirteen years of absence. That’s how long it’s been, you know, since I flew, since I saw my childhood home with my then-husband and our four-year-old child.

This child is now seventeen, and remembers pretty much nothing of the trip, except for how he woke up in a strange bed and tried to figure out where everyone was and there were so many doors, and he wasn’t sure where the stairs were…

I remember how my mom and I would be downstairs in the kitchen, in the mornings, and we would suddenly hear little feet scurrying around overhead and know Thing 1’s sweet, precious slumber and dreams of exotic animals and wide, far-off lands, and rainbow rows of candy were over…

Anyways, home is calling me, and the lovely land I wandered as a child, like a gypsy, March breezes softly, briskly warming and wild grass greening, pines towering, fragrant, whispering hush, hush, hush overhead, oaks looming, 200 years old. New York, it is beckoning me to return, after so much time away, like a child who never calls or writes and goes on with her life as if the first 18 years never happened in a very different place 2200 miles away.

The last time I flew, things were so very different, 2002, May it was. Flying so soon after September 11th was no picnic, as the world had changed, become more cynical, scared, cautionary. My shoes came off over and over. I cursed the change in my pockets, wallet, purse, the bounty of change being emptied into buckets over and over and over. It seemed as if my Utah driver’s license would never see my wallet’s dark and sheltering interior again.

We arrived at the airport a full two hours early. My husband thought we were too early, but I knew this extra time was necessary. There’s nothing I hate more than breathless, panicked running to catch a plane, and I certainly wasn’t going to do this with a four-year-old in tow. I knew our son needed to look out the window at the planes and see how they took off and landed, he NEEDED to see all this before he should ever step foot on a plane and fly for the first time.

I knew it was necessary to arrive calmly, collectedly by taxi and not depend on any friend or family member who might be late and throw a wrench into my well-laid plans. I knew it was necessary to walk calmly, leisurely to the baggage check-in, and have plenty of time to browse the airport shops. Two hours was perfect, absolutely.

Flash forward thirteen years. The husband is gone, my older son is now 17, carefully considering college? military? jobs? And there is another addition to my little family, my dear 11-year-old son. A son who has never flown.

We are sons and a mother who live twenty minutes from Salt Lake International Airport, and fall asleep at night lulled by the rhythms of planes overhead. We walk to the corner grocery store, marveling as planes descend, looming largely overhead, and sit on our patio as the planes descend, silvery, glinting magically into our western sunsets, a plane every two minutes or so.

The gentle, calming noise of planes is a constant in our lives, and as long as it is there, life is good, and normal, and as it should be.

I remember those terrible, terrifying days, those days after September 11th. Our lives became quiet, and scary, and screamingly silent, when the planes stopped flying. You never really know the noise is there until it’s gone, you know?

And I remember, I remember, how happy I was when that noise returned, that wonderful, beautiful noise of life going on and getting back to normal, those planes whispering to me that my world would go on and somewhat back to normal, although never the same again, somehow.

I was so overjoyed when the beloved, calming noise of the planes returned to our lives.

But somehow, thirteen years have passed and we’ve become People Who Don’t Fly. People who listen to planes everyday, but People Who Don’t Fly. Life has gotten so crazy, so full of routines and work and school and appointments and obligations, it seems miraculous to squeeze in a long weekend to visit my parents’ home, a mere two hours north.

Flash back to my college days. I flew four times a year, a real pro, or so I thought, always returning home to New York the second finals were over. And I flew home for Christmas and summer vacations without fail, that is, until Thing 1 came unexpectedly and gloriously into my life.

And I decided, consciously, way back then, I wanted to be a classy flyer. I always wore a skirt and tried to look my best, not only for myself, but for those who were picking me up, and those seatmate stranger souls, who sat elbow to elbow with me on those long flights. I owned lots and lots of skirts, as the telemarketing job I had in college had a strict dress code of skirts and hose.

Hose! My, how things have changed…

I decided way back then, with my newfound money, decided I wanted to have nice luggage, tired of cobbling together backpacks and duffle bags and lugging older-than-dirt, hard-sided luggage. Trust me, vintage wasn’t a word you tossed around proudly then, like you do now.

I saved up for a three-piece luggage set, and it was beautiful, black-and-white tweed. There was a garment bag and two suitcases, suitcases with wheels! I loved my luggage so much, was so proud of it! It even matched the black-and-white tweed winter jacket I used to have.

And then one awful trip home in December, the garmet bag was lost and never found again. All my favorite dressy clothes were in it, too, a devastating loss. The airline reimbursed me for my loss, but I always felt forlorn about my luggage after this. The suitcases languished in a storage shed at the first apartment I had on my very own, until the shed was destroyed in a microburst one spring, a storm that blew my metal shed right off its plywood foundation.

My landlord had a big old boat of a car parked on the property, and in my haste to clean up the ruined remnants of my storage shed, I threw the suitcases in there and never took them out again. I know, I know, this was one of my finer ghetto moves. And I don’t know what ever happened to them…

Back in the day, fly I would, sometimes without a cent in my pocket, a skinny and starving college student. I remember one such trip where I wanted a soft pretzel SO BAD I could taste it, but I was flat busted broke. These days if I have a few coins in my pocket, enough to buy a soft pretzel, I am RICH beyond measure.

And here I am today. I window-shopped for luggage, and it is sooo beautiful. Red, not your boring black, have-to-tie-a-ribbon-on-the-handle luggage. My luggage, it shall be a beautiful deep red, with trim of crocodile. And shall be Samsonite, even though (insert friendly snicker here) the salesgirl kept calling it Samsung.

My boys and I, we shall fly. Fly like freebirds to our New York nest, fly away home. Because, you see, there are reasons. There is the Hudson Branch of my church and its 50th anniversary party. There is my 30th high school reunion and dear friends I must see in person again. There is a grad school in Massachusetts which is shouting my name.

And there is the land, it beckons me back and longs to feel my footsteps, no longer those of a springy teenager, the slower footsteps of a middle-aged woman. The green, rolling hills, the winding, crazy, rutted, tree-lined roads, with names like Phudd Hill and Fern Hill and Black Grocery and Spook Rock and Tishauser and so many others.

The giant forsythia bush calls to me, saddened I missed its golden, springtime glory. The ancient oak whispers my name, wanting to tell me the secrets of 200 years spent in its sheltering shade. Family picnics, lovers’ trysts, and thirsty farmers have all relished in its glorious and sweeping shade, I’m sure. It has stood solidly through the test of time, wreaked and ravaged by harsh Nor’easters, but never taking a major hit.

Horses and buggies, Model Ts and Mustangs, they have all raced by over the years, to be sure, sped by without even noticing the giant old oak was watching silently, like a sage grandfather.

The red barn will creak and shout with joy when I open up the milkhouse door, knowing I love it so and have returned, prodigal, casting beams and slants of sunshine into its musty, dusty, still-smells-like-hay-and-apples interior. I will carefully inspect the remnants of Anatevka, the old center hall colonial my dad and sister dismantled after my last visit, the wood and windows still in the old red barn.

The foundation of Anatevka will beg me to plant wildflowers around and in it. And the poppies will be orange. I will remember the lilacs, sweet and heavenly scented and purple and white, the very same lilac bushes I brushed off with a broom, as a child on Mother’s Day, when a freak snowstorm hit. And the pines in the pasture will hush hush me, and I will breathe in their sticky sap scent, and step carefully on the carpet of brown needles, reverently.

And I will, I will be home.