(Publish date: July 27, 2006)
Bye, Bye Ms. American Pie
My daughters once asked me where I would be if I didn’t have them. I hadn’t ever considered this. Before I could answer, one of them jumped up and said, “You’d be drinking whiskey and rye…” and then they all joined in the rousing chorus of the old song, “American Pie”: “Singing this will be the day that I die.” Then all three collapsed into heaps of laughter, proud of the joke they had played on me. As I sat watching them in their silliness, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or read between the lines.
My mother moved 29 times before she turned 21. Yes, the number is mind-boggling and it was difficult, but it gave my mother a certain wanderlust that I must have inherited. Although I lived in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, I moved 12 times during the time period between graduating from college and giving birth the first time. That doesn’t count the year I spent in Ireland as a student, but it does include the (school) year I moved to three different cities on the East coast working as a traveling teacher. In comparison, I have only moved three times in nearly the same timeframe since I have been blessed with having my three beautiful girls.
My daughters ground me. I know for a fact that I would not be living here if it were not for them. Like George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, I would have shaken the dust of this little town off my feet and gone off to see the world. But now I can’t and wouldn’t and I don’t seem to mind at all. In all of its Mayberry-ness, Alameda is a great place for them to call home. There is a deep sense of the familiar and familial here, with multiple generations of Alamedans building a strong community. After my mother’s grueling experiences, I believe it’s good to establish one place as home for your kids—a place for them to want to shake the dust off their feet to go explore.
Maybe in singing the song, they deflected an answer they didn’t want to know, afraid to hear that I would prefer to be anyplace but with them. Parents and experts certainly agree that children need to know that they are loved and wanted, that they have security and a caring authority figure to watch over them.
But maybe, in all of the stories of all of the places both their mother and grandmother have been and lived, my children have a sense of the wandering women in their lives. My kids are rooted in California right now. At their age, I was beginning to inform my parents of all the places I would go and things I would do when I grew up. Until recently, my children have only talked about venturing as far as “Cal” in Berkeley for college.
The other day, one asked me where I would live after they all went off to college. I told them that I was hoping they would go far, so I could follow them around for a while. My oldest then announced that maybe USC in Los Angeles could be a good place to go, having the seedling dreams of working in film.
The news gives me some hope for my future travels. Considerations of L.A. this week could lead to thoughts of Boston, New York or London next! That wanderer is still in me somewhere.