Saturday, March 3, 2012


Or, in my case, "wonder-what's-on-the-other-side-of-that-mountain-lust."  I blame it on my childhood.

I was born on an island in the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Peninsula on one side and the icy, turbulent waters of the far north Pacific on the other.  That would no doubt explain my predilection for both mountains and the sea.

My grandparents on my father's side left the chilly, snowbound wilds of Minnesota, replacing that life with the Arctic wilderness of a burgeoning frontier, and near perpetual snow.  My grandmother was an adventuress of epic storytelling; my grandfather sailed in her wake; as long as he had her, and his books, he didn't much mind where they lived.

Mom, her parents and sisters left Seattle to relocate to the island because my grandfather worked for the government and he was posted there.  Strange how two families from such different parts of the world could come together on a little spit of land in the middle of nowhere.

Dad was very handsome: dark, curly hair, blue, blue twinkling eyes and a most impish smile.  My mother looked like Lauren Bacall, tall and pretty.  Dad fell for her like a ton of bricks.  To his dying day he thought the sun rose and set on my mother.  For her part, she's been on her own now for several years, and though I know she's lonely, it would never cross her mind to find someone else.  My dad was it for her as well.  I have to say, several relationships down the line for me, that they are an extremely hard act to follow.

But, I digress.  This story isn't about my background, per se, though I guess it is important to see that I come from two branches of a family tree that can't seem to help wandering, wondering or seeing what's on the other side of things.

My tale of wanderlust begins when I was about three, or so.  My memories dawn around this time too, though I don't remember this incident.  It's part of legend, both in the family and on the island, a place I have not been since I was twelve.  I often think of going back, though it's so changed now, modern and unfamiliar, I prefer my childhood dreams of it.

When I was a kid, the town was still a village.  Fishermen, and Eskimos (not yet the Inuit or Native Americans), Russians, frontier people.  My grandparents (Dad's) had an Emporium, stocking everything from snowshoes to bedroom slippers, food to baby formula, gasoline and fishing line.  It was an Aladdin's Cave of a store for a little girl like me.  I can still remember my grandmother, her boisterous guffaw of a laugh as she traded quips or stories with traders, fishermen and the natives.  My grandfather would sit by the big old stove at the back of the store, book in hand, with a smile on his face as he listened.

So, back to being three.  My sister must have been born about this time--again, no recollection--but what happened next would never have transpired unless everyone was busy doing something oohing and ahhing over a new babe.

The delivery guy had come into Gran's store, dropping off her weekly supplies; I was there with Mom, and probably my sister.  As the story goes, I wandered out of the store, saw the open back door of the delivery van, and crawled inside.  The guy comes out, shuts the door without a glance, and drives away.  To the airport.

By the time the van arrives at the airport, hysteria has ensued at the Emporium when I am discovered missing.  Apparently I had already gained a reputation for being too inquisitive and adventuresome, often going off to explore whatever took my fancy, getting half the village involved in trying to find me.  According to my mother, she never had a moment's peace from the time I began walking at nine months.  Dad said it really started when I began to talk and never shut up again.  I wonder they didn't realize it was all their fault in the first place for passing along these daring and reckless genes. 

Anyway, the word goes out that I am yet again missing, though no one can quite recall seeing me leave the building so where to begin looking?  Meanwhile, the poor delivery guy is preparing to park his van until the next flight arrives, when thankfully for me, he decides to take one last quick look in the back of the van before locking things up.  He nearly has a heart attack on the spot when he opens the doors, I wave and say "hi, are we there yet."

Now here's another thing.  In this day and age, the age of suspicion, political correctness, and total lack of common sense, that poor van guy would probably be arrested for kidnapping, or at the very least interrogated.  Back in the childhood world I lived in, he first called the local police man (yes, only the one), who was already looking for "that darned kid," then he called my grandmother.  I guess my rep really did precede me.

Dad came to get me, took me back to the Emporium, and after a stern talking to by my mother, she plopped me down beside my grandfather and told me not to move again until it was time to go home. As I understand it, there was much snickering and behind the hands laughter at my latest escapade, though I bet Mom wasn't as amused as everyone else.  I really wish I could remember that adventure, but having heard the story many  times over the course of my life, I feel like I do remember it.  After all, I knew the people, the Emporium, the village, the island.

I have always had wonderlust.  Maybe it started whilst sitting in the back of a dark van as a wee girl, wondering where I would end up, or maybe I was just born this way.  And know what?  With all the places I've been, the things I've seen, I wouldn't trade my genes for anything.


  1. What a fantastic little tale. And you're right; if that'd happened in today's advanced and enlightened society, chances are that poor guy would've been interrogated, charged, tortured some more, and then summarily executed before the actual truth came out.

    1. Thank you...and I'm glad I had my childhood, not one in the world we have now.