Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’ve lived most of my life at a distance from those I love.  I moved out of my parents’ house the day after I graduated from high school.  I attended college in the same city, but I would drop by only when I was feeling hungry or guilty.  When I accepted my first teaching job, I moved to Monterey, about 90 miles southwest of San Jose.  I got married, and after four years of teaching, we decided to take off to see America in a VW bus.  We moved back in with my parents for a couple of weeks to get ready for the trip, then I found out I was pregnant with Delaney.  We were thrilled and surprised at the same time.  We rented a house that was 5 miles from my folks’ home and literally right next door to their church–an institution I escaped from as soon as I could.  After a year, we moved back to the Monterey area to housesit for friends in a canyon in Big Sur while they toured Europe for six months.  Then we rented a house in Monterey where Jenny and Casey were born.  Two years later we followed the yellow brick road to Nashville, hoping to strike it rich in the music business.  The plan was to stay for five years, then take our millions back to California to settle down.  Seventeen years later, I moved back home by myself.  Tennessee had never been a comfortable fit for me, but the dissolution of my marriage made it impossible to stay.  Even though they understood and encouraged me, the decision to leave my daughters behind was the most difficult I’ve ever made.  None of them lived at home anymore, but I was brought up with the Ma and Pa image–the homestead down the road where the kids could drop by at will.  Instead, in a good year, I see the girls two or three times; that’s still hard to get my head around. 

I’ve always been at odds with the greeting card images of females throughout every stage of my life.  I grew up in a male household–a patriarch, 3 brothers, and a mother who would give in.  I knew what I was supposed to do as a member of the family–serve and obey–but mostly I wasn’t supposed to cause trouble.  Go along.  Put yourself second, third, fourth.  Instead I fought and moved out as soon as I could.  I put my heart and mind into being a good mother, but as the girls grew up and needed me less, I realized that I was repeating the same patterns from my childhood; I allowed myself to step back into the river and drift until the current swept me away.

So, I’m a mom who lives two time zones from her kids.  After a rough start, we’re finding our way–the girls and I talk at least once a week on the phone and email often.  When we’re together, we easily fall back into that closeness.  But I wish I was nearby when they’re sick or have too much to do, and hopefully, we’ll have this travel thing figured out by the time they have children. 

Lately I’ve been calling myself “the wordy pilgrim”–I’ve always been on a quest to find and protect my authentic self, and I talk way too much about what I’ve discovered and what I’ve lost.   It may seem that I have thoroughly rejected the beliefs of my parents, but there is no doubt that I can recognize my father’s gait in my stride and my mother’s wonder in my heart. I hold onto their myths that work in my life, and I let the rest of them slide (leaving only the tiniest smudge of guilt as they go).  

I’m no longer running away and I haven’t stopped searching.  Our challenge is to figure out how we can stay close from a distance, stay linked in our freedom, and find the path that leads us home and away at the same time.