My Home Highway

Most of my life has been spent on the road, driving aimlessly to unknown destinations. I never make any plans when I travel.  I don’t worry about time or space.  I keep no schedule, have no strategy.  I don’t worry about hotel reservations or notifying anyone where I am during the day.  I always travel without any care or worry.    I don’t even worry about packing anymore. One of my friends, Lori, stated it best.

About fifteen years ago, I had gone out to dinner one night with Lori and was rather frantic.  I had a hard time relaxing during the meal.  I told her that I was leaving for Kansas very early the next morning and hadn’t even packed yet.  She just sighed, shrugged, and answered, “Like you are not going to find a Wal-mart somewhere.” Hhhmmm, she had a point.  I never worried about packing again, which actually is good for me.  I have grown very comfortable just throwing clean underwear into a backpack and heading out the door.  I am ready for any adventure or experience.  I am a born roamer.  I get that from my mother.

My father, Joseph John Zunick, on the other hand, was a settler.  Once he was married to my mother, Leslee Jean Burgess, on Memorial Day in 1959, he settled in to the house they had purchased before their wedding and never saw any need to leave home.  He didn’t enjoy travelling, and reluctantly went on family summer vacations at my mother’s insistent urging.  My father would have been just as happy to have stayed at home.  He had no desire to move or to change.  He knew where home was and was content to stay there.

Mom was not and she would take out her stagnation frustration on the living room furniture.  Every couple of weeks, she would move the furniture in the living room around once again, banging it roughly against the walls to relieve her aggravation at that moment.  She finally confessed to me one day that she moved the furniture so much just to have some sense of change.  Some days, she confessed with a shy smile, she liked to rearrange the furniture and pretend that she had just moved into a new home.

It took Mom twenty-three years to get Dad to finally move and then it was just across State Avenue to a different neighborhood, just three miles away.  It seemed to be the best compromise they could make.  Mom was happy in the new house for awhile until Dad died and the kids moved away.  Then she was ready again to wander.

That’s where I get it.  My unrelenting wanderlust comes directly from my mom.  It eases my mind that this is something that we share.  I had always had concerns about my heritage for valid reasons.  In my immediate family, I’m the only one who has never married.  I’m the only one without children.  I’m the only one who has moved away from the family home state of Kansas.  I’m the only one who has traveled abroad.  I’m the only one who has driven cross country countless times.  I’m the only one who has graduated from a university.  I keep asking my mom if I’m adopted and she assures me that I am not.  She tells me we are too much alike.  However, while she can calm my fears about my family connections, she has always doubted her own.

Mom had always wondered herself if she had been adopted.  She always believed that she did not belong in her family.   Nobody ever acknowledged or commented on her fears.  No one ever eased her mind about where she belonged.  It just wasn’t something that was discussed while she was growing up in the late ‘30s and ‘40s.  Though it was never addressed by her family, Mom had always suspected that she was not the daughter of Ralph Leroy Burgess and Edith Marie McCurdy.  No, thanks to family whispers and sly glances, Mom began to believe that she was actually the daughter of her supposed Aunt Lil, Edith’s sister.

Ah, Aunt Lil, the suspected prostitute who eventually married the cop who kept arresting her to get her off the streets.  It was said that Aunt Lil was an absolute beauty, with long auburn hair and almond-shaped, hazel eyes that gleamed golden green when she was happy.  Honestly, her eyes would shine a brilliant green ringed with a glowing yellow.  She was rumored to look just like Rita Hayworth.   Mom looked more like Aunt Lil than anyone else in the family.  She had the unusual colored eyes and a petite body with tiny, delicate features.  In our family, red hair runs like a wild fire that skips some regions and burns others.  Thanks to Aunt Lil, every so often, red will pop up for a generation and then fade away again.  Aunt Lil was well-known for the way her fiery red hair matched her feisty, determined personality.

As a child, Mom had been enchanted by Aunt Lil whenever she came to visit.  Mom always felt special with Aunt Lil who paid attention to her when Mom otherwise felt permanently overlooked by, and because of, her older brothers and sister.  It was the only notice Mom felt she could get from anyone in her family.  Besides the good looks, Aunt Lil gave Mom the attention she craved.   It was just too bad she wasn’t always around on a regular basis.  Mom would never feel that she ever received the love and consideration she deserved.

So, that’s something else Mom and I have always had in common.  A feeling that we have never found our place in this world, that we don’t know where we belong.  So we both continue to search and explore and try to discover who we really are.  We are constantly running to something, some place new to be..or some place old to forget.

Maybe that’s why I constantly have this same recurring dream.  I have it at least once a month and I still don’t completely know what it means.  I dream I’m being chased.  Beginning from the house where I spent my childhood, I spend almost all night running nonstop through the neighborhoods where I grew up.  I don’t know who is chasing me or why, but I continue to run for hours…and I am always on foot.  In fact, once I even dreamed that I was driving my car and being followed.  So I pulled over to the side of the road, parked the car, got out, and started to run.  Why didn’t I just take the car?!? I wake up completely exhausted and, for a moment, confused about where I actually am. I don’t really know what it means, but I do know, dream or real life, running or driving, I have to move.

When I am not running in my dreams, I am still on the road.  On nights when I can’t sleep, my head spinning with dreams of flight, I continually picture miles of highway in my head.  I focus on some far off vantage point and tell myself that by the time I reach that spot, I will be asleep.  So, in my mind, I begin to follow the stream of highway.  I make up the passing scenery of pastures, cows, trees, and rolling hills, as I continue down my imaginary path until I finally drift off to sleep.


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