Grow fearless before you grow old

I do not come from a people who take risks.  Or move more than 10 miles from where they were born.  When I was a kid, moving from Brooklyn to Long Island was a very big deal.  I grew up in the same house in which my mother was raised.  My parents’ wedding more or less coincided with the arrival of my father’s draft notice for World War II, so she stayed put while he shipped off to the Pacific.   At the end of the War, almost four years after they walked down the aisle, my parents finally moved in together — alongside my grandfather, aunt and uncle. 

A couple of my mother’s siblings struck off in the late 50s for Long Island and Staten Island, places as exotic to us as if they had moved to Bali.  My mother stayed put, until after 20 years the city took over our entire block to build a new school.  The property was “condemned”  and the family cast out.  We set off, like pioneers, for the strange wilds of Staten Island where one of my aunts lived.  I’m not sure my mother, who never learned to drive, ever stopped missing Brooklyn.

She was rooted, rooted to family and to place.  She did not associate travel with romance or adventure, nor did she ever want to move.  During the War (upper case to distinguish it from the lesser wars that followed), my father’s  troop train stopped briefly at Whitefish, Montana, possibly (but most likely not–it’s so improbable) on Christmas Eve.   The rugged beauty of the town, snugged down amid white, green and purple mountains, cast a spell on my father.  Throughout my childhood he talked wistfully about Whitefish and his dream of picking up and starting there afresh.  Another alternative he offered — equally absurd and unworthy even of discussion as far as my mother was concerned–was Australia, where he recalled enjoying steak-and-egg breakfasts for 25 cents.  My mother was having none of it, and in New York we stayed.

I’ve already established that I haven’t strayed too far, either, so I find myself thinking that I just don’t come from people who take risks.  So why am I moving over 1,000 miles away?  And why now? 

Hard to say, exactly, except that I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to grow out of what I grew into.  Shakespeare has the fool famously say to King Lear, “Thou should not have been old til thou hast been wise.”  My version of that is to grow fearless before you get old.

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2 Responses

  1. I never realized how adventerous I was having three children in three different states before the age of 35.

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