Sunday, July 25, 2010

She Used To Be a Backseat Bumpkin

Reading A Persistent Muse's blog, I couldn't help but be reminded of my own precious daughter's wandering ways. When Paige was little, she kept a pink and purple backpack with her name embroidered on the front tucked away at the back of her closet with her favorite books, toys and other essentials she thought she might need to make her escape. She toted the bag on her back the first time she ran away to the corner. Standing apprehensively at the doorway, allowing her to spread her wings, I was thankful when she finally turned homeward.

"Where did you think you were going," her father questioned her.

"Anywhere!" Paige replied adamantly, "Away from here!"

Many times she traveled with me as my backseat bumpkin, like the times I took her to Chicago and told her we were in Ireland. We sang Irish songs all the way... "Too-Ra-Loo- Ra-Loo-Ral" and "I'll tell my ma when I get home, the boys won't leave the girls alone!" Then, there were the trips to St. Louis when I told her we were in Italy. I'd take her to the park and over to The Hill for spaghetti. A simple trip across town could be to France!

"Bonjour!" we'd say to people in the park.

"Bonjour," they'd reply. Granted, when she finally took geography in grade school it posed a small problem, but nothing she couldn't get over.

When she was in sixth grade, our family was transferred to Switzerland. Her dreams came true as we toured castles, skied the Alps, climbed the Eiffel Tower and pretended we were Monet in the South of France. I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience, and for me, it was. Soon, we were back home in the United States and she was attending football games and proms, but little did I realize her wandering ways had only been magnified.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, she was packing for freshman year at college. I entered her room and noticed her shelves were practically empty. She dragged every suitcase from the basement and there they were, spread out all over her room, filled to capacity with books, trinkets, and every essential she thought she needed to make her escape.

"WHAT are you thinking?" I questioned.

She turned on a dime with tears in her eyes, "You don't get it, do you? I am NEVER coming back!"

"Of course, you are! Don't be ridiculous. You'll be home all the time and after school's over I'm sure you'll come home and look for work." I retorted.

I could not have been more wrong. Her senior year of college, she applied for the Peace Corps and moved to West Africa within three months of graduation. There, she lived in a hut with no running water and no electricity for over two years. After her stint in the Peace Corps, she traveled to Bali, Angkor Wot, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore with her brother. I thought, now.... now she has seen the world and she'll come home for awhile. I reminisced about the travel games I played with her while she was growing up and realized they were a curse and a blessing. Soon she was engaged, stayed home long enough to plan a wedding and then she was off to California with her husband. Paige had been right, she was never coming back, not to stay anyway, again.

I assure you her wandering ways have not stopped. Paige and her husband traveled to China during the Olympics. After that, they flew to Germany for a rock climbing trip with his brother. Now, almost every weekend she can be found carrying an even larger backpack hiking or rock climbing in the mountains outside of Los Angeles or Las Vegas. This August, she and her husband are meeting her brother at Glacier National Park to hike for eight days.

I often wonder if Paige had a sixth sense about the path her life was going to take. I question if our travel games caused her wanderlust and if I would have changed them if only I had known. Yet, when I think of that little four year old girl standing on the corner with her pink and purple backpack, I know in my heart she had a plan and she stuck to it.

Paige called me last week from California. She's a little homesick and wants to come back the 2nd weekend of August. So, I will be waiting apprehensively in my doorway once again, thankful for the moment she walks up my driveway and turns down the sidewalk, homeward.