Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Things I Never Had

When I am home alone, I often have the TV on, just to keep me company.  I don't actually watch what is on the tube, it merely serves as background noise.  Once in a while, I pick up on a line or two coming through the TV speakers, and recently heard a sentence of dialogue that got me thinking.  It was a random moment, where my ears just happened to hear the TV character say,

"Those are things I never had".  The actress was lamenting the things she never had as a child, and how her life was negatively affected by their absence.  That kind of thinking brings out the worst in me and in a moment of unkindness, I looked at the TV and said "Quit whining!"

But the line stayed in my head.  I thought about it as I did the laundry.  The words came back to me during one of my many episodes of insomnia.  A theme began swirling around in my head, until I reached the point where I had to put my thoughts into perspective.
Sure, my childhood wasn't perfect.  Instead of whining about it, I was thinking how lucky I am, because I never suffered.  I had a good home, with a mom and a dad who love and respect each other to this day.  I had the too-important pair of Guess jeans in high school, which any self-respecting teen in the early 80's simply had to have.  I wore those jeans until I became pregnant with my first child.  I had delicious southern fried meals every day, courtesy of my southern mom.  My parents were far from wealthy, but we took a few family vacations, drove a decent car, and had everything we needed.  My parents were involved and caring.  Sometimes a little too involved, but what teenager doesn't feel that way?  The best thing we had, though, was books.

My parents, my sister, and I still love to read.  My dad built a library in our home, and we often went to the bookstore as a family, where my mother could never deny me that third or fourth book in my pile, even though she knew I would read all of them in a week and beg for more.  Once I started middle school, I found amazing discoveries in my father's books.  He had books on every subject, from every part of the world.  I never ran out of things to read in my parents' house.  It was in those books that I found myself.

I grew up in the city.  I realized at a very young age that I hated the city.  I longed for the wide open spaces I read about in my books, I wanted to see the mountains and rivers and valleys.  I wanted to live on a farm.  As far back as I can remember, I coveted land.  I vowed to myself that some day, I would live in a place where I couldn't see another house but I could see untamed land for miles.  Instead of the steady sounds of city life with its cars backfiring and sirens wailing and neighbors yelling, I dreamt of hearing the wind and rushing water.  I believed, as a child, that it would just happen, that I would live in a place when I grew up that existed in my books and my heart.  It never happened.

When I was seven years old, I read The Boxcar Children for the first of many times.  Oh, how I envied Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny for their boxcar home!  I wanted to run away from home and find my own boxcar to live in, but I never got very far away from my mother's watchful eyes.  In college, I went for a walk one day away from the campus, and found an abandoned boxcar in the woods a couple of miles from my dorm.  I was so delighted that whenever I couldn't sleep, I would walk there in the middle of the night and sit in that old boxcar to dream of my future.  I'm pretty sure that's when the dream was born of living in a little cabin high on a bluff deep in the woods overlooking the water.

As my life went on, I fell madly in love with a man from my hometown.  We married, and I moved straight from my parents' home to my husband's home, in the city.  I neglected my dreams as I embraced a new vision for my life with my husband and the three children that came along.  We moved to a bigger house just outside of the city, and I was happy to stay home, raise my family, and embrace suburban living.  My childhood dreams were never forgotten, they just didn't seem important anymore.

Twenty years ago, when my first child was born and I had the perfect husband and we were starting a perfect life together, no one could have told me what I would feel like now.  I couldn't foresee a time when my family would not be the center of my universe.  Then my kids grew up.  Damn them for turning out to be the responsible, independent young adults I raised them to be.  I never would have believed how much it would hurt to be so proud of my kids for making their own way.

Thinking about the things I never had has taken on an entirely new context.  I never had a mountain to climb or a river to cross.  I never had a bear, wolf, or moose run through my back yard, I didn't even have deer in my yard!  I never felt the rush of adrenaline as I rode my bike down a narrow ridge or pushed a canoe down the swift current of rushing whitewater.  I spent my childhood indoors, reading my books and imagining the lives of others, while never really living my own.

Google Images

The things I never had are what move me forward now.  There is a time for everything, and for each of us, the time is different.  I made the choices that were right for me, back then.  I did what I was meant to do by being a mother first and foremost.  I loved it!  Now, I find myself remembering my childhood dreams, and they are reawakening.  I find that I still want land around me, I still want that little cabin, and I still want to climb a mountain.  I may never have had those things before, but dreaming of them for 48 years just makes them that much sweeter.  Now is the time for me to be something all by myself, and that something will grow out of a child's longing to be outside, part of the vastness of the land and the greatness of a natural world.

These days, I don't live in a boxcar, but I do love living in my tin can, the old Airstream.  It's just like the boxcar, except I made it my own.  I park it in the woods like an abandoned old trailer so I can cook outside, search the woods for treasures, and seek its shelter at night.  Just like Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, I don't need to be found.  I need to be lost in my childhood dreams, writing the rest of my story, for once making it up as I go along.

Glass Lake, Google Images
Google Images
 I don't use my childhood as an excuse for not living passionately, in a place where I belong.  I was exactly where I belonged for many years, taking care of my family and giving them the best of me.  Now there is a new place for me to belong, and I am being drawn there because of the things I never had.  I recently searched for properties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and found the perfect piece of land.  There are 360 acres of wild land surrounding a completely undeveloped body of water called Glass Lake.  The property has a high bluff on the north end of Glass Lake, the ideal spot for my little cabin.  Of course, one of the things I've never had is a winning lottery ticket, so I won't be buying Glass Lake at the bargain price of $1.8 million any time soon, but I know there is land out there waiting for me and my cabin.   Right now, I am planning a trip to kayak on Lake Superior, and another trip to the Porcupine Mountains, and several smaller trips camping in the woods in the tin can.  Alaska is still on the horizon, too.  I will hear the rush of water, climb a mountain, see a wolf, and stand in the middle of wide open spaces and breathe the glory of the land.  My time to be inspired by the things I never had is coming.  I am older, wiser, and in the right position to fully appreciate who I might become.  I have been patient with my dreams and I believe good things come to those who wait, so as I take these baby-steps toward my future I am learning once more to be open to what lies ahead and be grateful for the things I never had.
Google Images