Long before the first grade teacher told my mother I was consistently late for school, I was already a wanderer. But wait, how? Did I walk to school? Yes, I did–not barefoot, not in three feet of snow. But that’s a different story.
It was 1954, when grand ocean liners still carried U.S. passengers around the world; and our young family was sailing back to Canada from four years in Ireland. My father had emigrated from there, a young pastor of 24; and the bride he brought over to Belfast was more than anxious to get back to her family– and familiarity. With rough seas, seasick, and struggling under the stresses of three small children, she sorely underestimated their rambunctious five year-old. Me. So when the sun once again sparkled on the water, wanderlust-driven, I ducked away from her. Sneaking into the ship’s elevator, I pretended a relationship with the kind man who stood sentinel and took us wherever we needed to go.
“Take me to Deck 5, please,” I pertly instructed. Maybe he thought I knew where I was going, for he closed the folding double doors and we began to move. And when those doors opened– for me. Exhilaration! However, within seconds of freedom, reality struck. Miraculously, I sensed that only a few dozen steps from that opening, I would be truly lost. So I explored, feigning relaxation, never taking one eye off that thing. Then I hopped back into the familiar, and with slightly less confidence said, “I’d like Deck 8, please.” Well, this second excursion gave the kind man pause. When I hopped back this time, he expressed genuine concern.
“Young lady, where do you belong? Which is your deck?”
Of course, I had to admit that in spite of caution, I had forgotten where I “lived.” Then when the search ensued, at least I could tell him my name.
So, yes, I am an escapee, a wanderer. But a rather normal one. Red blood flows in now aging veins. And as with the fear of losing sight of the elevator door, truth-telling about all that life has thrown my way can be daunting. How is it that so many years have passed? What happened? The adventure in telling it calls, as did the elevator of our ship. But there is more than the adventure. There’s the unsettling awareness of the brevity of this life, this crossing. It crashes in like the waves on our ship. And then there’s this curious need to make sense of the sometimes blustery process of aging.
But also, there’s Joy! What a time of life to relish all of life’s lessons, and to finally see the shore barely in view on the other side! Oh, there is more to do. But even with much left to do, there are a thousand stories to tell –and finally time to tell them.
If I am determined enough.
Determined enough to document cherished conversations with husband, two sons, two daughters, and gadzoodles of grandchildren. To document the vivid technicolor stories of women who have dropped seemingly out of the blue into my life. To share with other wives what I have had to learn the hard way, like the way of those unknown decks…..
Yet, through it all, God knows where I live. Somewhat like the elevator man, He is always ready to get me back where I belong. However, unlike the elevator man, He is the One who brings clarity and meaning to all those roamings. And it is He Whom I am learning to trust. Well, he’s the One who got me to first grade, albeit late. And He’s the one with the words to tell the stories. He is why I live and write.