The Flying Lesson
Capturing The Lifelong Interaction Between Parent And Child
“The Flying Lesson,” by Mary Callery, was dedicated on November 5, 1957, and its appearance proved to be a surprise to many:
An interesting sidelight on the statue was that many directors—in anticipation of its arrival—visualized something like a little fat cherub, perhaps with water spouting out of his mouth. When the bronze did arrive, abstract, austere, and perfectly stunning in its own way, it came as a shock. While it lay on its side in the courtyard waiting to be installed on the wall, children and adults asked why the junk pile was out there. After installation, the question was never asked again, because it clearly conveyed its message of the need of the child to separate from the mother, yet the wish to hold on.
–Excerpt from The Mary and Alexander Laughlin Children’s Center: A Retrospective 1902-1979
The statue depicts a parent–ageless, of indeterminate gender–in that moment between holding on to and letting go of a child, an act that repeats itself over and over again, during life. Mary Callery, the artist, captures this bittersweet, but ultimately life-affirming, act perfectly. The sculpture has become a touchstone for everything that Laughlin Children’s Center embodies.