(Mom and I with Safari Doctors in Lamu, Kenya)
A few years ago Mom told me that when she was in high school she wanted to be a travel writer. She graduated and went to a business college for a year before becoming pregnant. Mom and Dad got married in a ceremony I haven’t heard much about. They moved into a mobile home, but her life was anything but mobile. Dad worked construction and on his parents’ farm. Mom worked as a secretary for an auto manufacturer that has long since closed.
She lost the baby. His name was Michael. I’ve always felt some connection with him. If he had lived, would they have decided to have a third child after my older brother, Kyle, was born? Would I be here?
Mom and Dad only lived in the trailer for a few months. I wonder, what twenty-year-old Lynne was thinking in the mornings? At work? When you are 20 and want to be a travel writer, you want to move and never stop. Explore, but never too long in one place. I remember the ache of wanderlust and the fear of being stuck.
I felt every word George Bailey had to say in It’s a Wonderful Life:
“Mary, I know what I’m going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet, and I’m gonna see the world: Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields. I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high. I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.”
George didn’t travel or build bridges. He built a life with kids and a struggling family business. His life wasn’t what he imagined, but he gave to his family and his community and they all became something they wouldn’t have if not for him. And Clarence the angel told him: “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
I learned to SCUBA dive when I was 13 in Ohio with Mom. The first time I left the country was to the Bahamas with Mom to take the plunge on our first open water dives. We did a shark dive, too. My nose bled into my mask and Mom didn’t freak out that much. She accidentally snuck me into a topless show at a casino. She was the first to expose me to a world beyond the rural Midwest. And more than show me the world, she was the first to teach me how to see it through the books we read, the news we watched in the morning, and the conversations we had. She believed in fairness, justice, and diversity.
By DNA, upbringing, or both, Mom passed her wanderlust on to me.
Want to read more? This was an excerpt from my book WHERE AM I GIVING? Get a copy.
Now, check out Mom’s dance moves…