my compass and North Star

I grew up taking road trips in vans. You know the kind. Long, bulky, with a back seat that served simultaneously as a trampoline for no more monkeys jumping in the bed and a torture chamber for big brothers to pick on their siblings. There wasn’t a road trip we went on where we didn’t lay that back seat down and camp out there.

No matter the budget, my Mom made sure we traveled. We left before the sun rose, just like she worked. And our trips were always fully stocked. She was sure to pack a cooler with ice-cold beverages and several bags of goodies–salty (for her) and sweet (for my Dad). (Both for me.) Not that this meant we didn’t stop at gas stations to get our favorite treats. We did. (And promptly left brothers-in-law behind.) However, when we didn’t have that luxury, you can bet this 8-year old was learning to pee in a Mountain Dew can.

Our destinations were all over the United States. We drove West, South, North, and East. I will always treasure visiting the Badlands, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Glenwood Springs, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug with my parents; trips carved on the map of memory. Most often our destination was my Mom’s hills of West Virginia, where now she rests in peace. Or part of her does.

Much of her rests in me.

As Dave and I spend our ninth month in a foreign country, I can’t help but feel I inherited my Mom’s travel bug. In our short time here, we have already traveled around to several beaches and mountain towns in Brazil, not to mention internationally to Argentina. Our trip to Patagonia is reserved, and we’re figuring out Mendoza and Machu Picchu.

I guess she’s not resting that much after all.

Yesterday, she would have turned 78. But she didn’t. She’s gone. Too soon, and too brutally. But what loss isn’t? I am left with grief, a constant companion.

But I am also left with her, the ever-present sailor at the helm pointing onward to new shores. Actually, she hated water; she would hate that metaphor. I can hear her “no,” which sounds more like a creek-hollar-“knnnnewwwwwwww.”

But I am left with her, the wandering compass and the North Star: adventure and home, map and mailbox, there and here.

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