My husband, Josh The Pilot, is a pilot, and as he is a pilot, we live an unconventional life. He’s home, and then he’s not. He’s coming back, and then he isn’t. Sometimes he’s home for four days in a row, but for the most part, he’s gone for six.

His job with an airline means that we may fly standby, which means that we don’t have to buy a ticket, but it also means that only if there is room on the airplane for us, we clamber on at the last possible second. Sometimes I fly first class from Cincinnati to Colorado Springs with a real ceramic mug for free tea. Sometimes I am stranded in Dallas while a writing workshop begins without me in Tucson. Always there is the possibility of grabbing the half-packed bag I keep in the closet and bouncing off to DC for the day. Never is it boring.

We can’t have a dog or a hedgehog because it would spend much of its life in a kennel or with friends wondering what he might have done to earn banishment from our home, and we can’t have a baby because Josh’s massive training fees and aeronautical university degree have meant that, at times, we were forced to choose between groceries or student loan payments. (Also Potential Mommy is batcrap crazy, but that’s another column, for another site, about another donkey.)

I endure all this this because it’s what Josh The Pilot wants to do with his life, just as he puts up with me wandering the house at 3 AM, laptop in hand, occasionally making such pronouncements as, “I need to live in Boston for like six weeks to research pre-Revolution educational materials for this one essay I might write, is that okay?”

In their own way, I’m sure baseball families are little different, pledging loyalty to one team, then another, never knowing if the baby’s teeny little Marlins outfits would be recycled for a future sibling.

This is the raised pillar upon which All Star Zach Cozart’s family currently balances itself, utterly unsure about where they’ll be living or when, with the entire sporting world watching. Are we going to see this donkey of Cozart’s grow up? Does he care if we don’t? When I took my nephews to meet him this past weekend, we first had to check the morning sports news to ensure he was in fact still a Red. It’s easy to think that the millions showered upon him for playing a game might ease such discomfort, but having grown up in the same house in the same school district my entire life, I cannot imagine not only moving constantly, but not even knowing where the next move might be. There is no price on still knowing your childhood phone number by heart.

Fantasy leagues and the avalanche of stats we swim through each season makes it easy to dismiss athletes as human beings. I’ve worked with astronauts and jockeys, engineers and literary stars, and what they all have in common is a desire to be seen. Maybe they want to be seen as people, as icons, as a shadow of their actual selves—but they all seek, in their own ways, authentic eye contact.

To a person who lives with a bag constantly half-packed, it is perhaps the one grounding moment of the day.

About The Author

Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a freelance writer and college teacher who lives in Cincinnati, OH. Her home site,, has existed in at least some form since 2003, and Mary Beth has been a regular columnist with one publication or another from the age of 16. Her first book, Drink to the Lasses, was published in 2006. She currently teaches college, runs personal wine tastings, gives literary readings, and stares into the middle distance.

Related Posts

15 Responses

    • Shchi Cossack

      Yep, I have a vague recollection of a party line, but a solid memory (very odd for the Old Cossack!) of my childhood, alpha-numeric phone number in that little house just like the hundreds of other little houses crammed together. Those are great memories of no privacy and limits on the length and number of phone calls on the single phone line the entire family used.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Yep, those were the days. Your mobility during a call was limited by the length of the wire from the wall to the phone, and then by the length of the coiled wire between the phone and the “receiver.” None of the “mobility” offered by today’s devices that fit in your pocket.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to play some 33 rpm “records” on my phonograph.

      • Jim Walker

        I believe one of my first forays into the world of electronics occurred when I took a pair of side cutter pliers to my mom’s sewing machine needle to try and cut it down to the proper length to use in our phonograph.

        The party line experience I recall is when we were on the same line as our small village fire chief. When we would hear the phone vibrating or it emitted a single truncated ring such as those phones often did when another party on the line was being called, we ran to phone in hopes of hearing where the fire was. And it also turned out the chief had a very interesting personal life to boot!

      • TR

        That reminds me of growing up in Trenton when the population was less than a thousand. The telephone operator, whose name was Maude, had to put your call through if it was anywhere beyond Middletown. Quite a change from where we are today.

  1. greenmtred

    I like yur insights, Mary Beth.

      • Joe McManus

        So good. Very enjoyable. Thank you Mary Beth; I literally laughed out loud several times while reading this piece. “Another column, on another site, about another donkey”… What a fantastic line.

  2. msanmoore

    This may be the best of your columns so far this year. We are all a sum of the choices and life circumstances that surround us. It’s beyond just “making lemonade” … it’s creatively choosing to engage in life rather than just letting it happen. I love how you don’t apologize for your choices – nobody ever should. We live, love and move forward.

    The real “Donald” to Reds fans will be fine. Cozart will take good care of him as will Cooper. I have no doubt. We’ll ride it as long as we can, especially when Zach is having such a great year. When it ends, it ends and we move on.

  3. BK

    Great article Mary Beth; thanks for sharing your talents with us!

  4. Mary Beth Ellis

    So kind of all of you. Many thanks 🙂