It’s 630 am and I just folded a paper airplane for little guy.
He brought a page torn from a small activity book, set the it down on the desk and asked me to make him an airplane. There was a scribble of green and orange crayon, and a torn corner on the page that I thought could be trouble in-flight, not to mention the fact that I could not remember how to fold a paper airplane.
So I stalled, and bought myself some time by making the first fold.
The first fold is easy: lengthwise, dividing the paper in two.
I opened the fold, laid the paper out on the table, and bent in the top right corner, bringing it to a triangle. Then folded in the opposite corner with the torn edge, which turned out to be no trouble, tucked in safely in the middle crease. I had worried over nothing.
I turned the folded paper on its side. It was not an airplane yet, but a primitive shape, a long rectangle with a missing corner, a wedge. I had hoped that once I made those first folds, my hands would take over and I would know what to do next. That did not happen.
I had no idea where to make my next fold. Shouldn’t this be like riding a bike? Shouldn’t folding an airplane be a skill ingrained from a childhood spent making hundreds of my own airplanes? Shouldn’t I know how to do this?
I folded the top of the plane in half towards the bottom edge. It was a timid fold forming a crude wing impossible of sustaining any lift.
“How did you know how to fold that,” little guy asked, in something that sounded like awe.
I flipped the plane over and made the same fold on the other side, doubling down on the crude wings.
Not knowing what else to do, and faced with an expectant 4 year old, who assumes his dad is an expert in everything, because he is the dad, I folded the wings in half again.
It was done.
I held the plane in between my fingers and examined my (crude, clumsy) handiwork. The airplane was long and skinny. Narrow. An arrow of a plane. A dart? I remembered, or thought I remembered, probably from a paper airplane book I had read as a kid. The folds in the nose didn’t line up. One wing was wider than the other. Would it fly?
Little guy looked at me, smiling. Where I was all doubt, he was none.
I pinched the base of the airplane between thumb and first two fingers. I gave the plane a light toss, just a little wrist flick, fingers released and spread wide, and the plane was out of my hands, now, with more speed than I intended, but I had done all I could do.
The plane lifted just a little at first, and I thought it might glide gently out the studio door, but instead it quickly dipped from the excess speed nosedived into the guitar leaning against the studio wall. The plane din’t travel far, just a few feet –
“Whoa,” said Little Guy. The airplane had flown farther than he ever expected.
Epilogue: Later that morning in the living room. Little guy threw the airplane over the railing of the living room down to the entryway. I was surprised by how well it flew. He ran down the stairs and picked it up.
He carried the plane up the stairs and said, “Dad, I think it’s out of batteries.”