At that time my family embarked on road trips, there were no cell phones or GPS systems. We did not depend on technology to get us through. We were real pioneers, with nothing but maps and fellow adventurers traveling the highways. All we had to depend on were ourselves and the kindness of family, friends, neighbors, and travelling allies. That was the adventure. We lived dangerously…and we survived. We learned how to stand on our own two feet and find our direction. We may have found ourselves lost every now and then, but we always eventually made it back home.
I don’t think people want adventure any more. They just want to be at their destination fast and soon. Oh, what they have missed along the way is heartbreaking. Why not stop and view the world around us? Otherwise, what’s the point of going anywhere? Why ever leave home?
Mom and I continued to travel that way as we journeyed through America. Just a map and stopping when we got tired, never quite sure where we were going to end up. Wherever we stopped, that’s where we stopped. Talking about it now seems as foreign as the wild-west journeys by covered wagon. But people used to watch out for each other then and travelers could always rely on gas station attendants and friendly locals for free directions, bitter cups of coffee, and interesting conversations about little hometowns.
My brother, Ralph, always had the greatest advice. “Always get lost in a new town,” he suggested. “Whenever you’re lost, you have to force yourself to learn the city to get back. There’s no better way of learning about your surroundings.”
There was only one time in my life that I can ever remember ever getting horribly, desperately lost. I was five-years-old and thought of myself as a big girl. Everyday when I went to kindergarten, Grandma always dropped me off right at the front door. My classroom was just inside, first door on the left…however, over the last couple of weeks, I happened to notice that several of my classmates were coming into the classroom from the opposite direction. They were coming in through the backdoor, and for some reason, I thought that was really cool. So one day, I made up my mind that I did not want to go in to school though the “baby” front door and told my grandmother to drop me off at the back of the building. Grandma was very hesitant at first.
“Are you sure you know the way?” she must have asked me five times as she circled around to the back of the building. Of course…well, maybe…but what difference did it make…I was on the very first of many amazing journeys. Grandma stopped at the back of the building and…uh, oh, there were two doors about five feet apart.
“Are you sure you know which door to use?” Grandma started to worry again. “Let’s go back up front.”
But I couldn’t back down now. I quickly kissed her check, jumped out of the car, and without any hesitation, I walked to one of the doors. I just picked one. I swung it open, stepped inside…and was suddenly completely lost! I had no idea where I was! Did I turn around? No. Did I step back out and try the other door? No. I just started walking…and walking…and walking as if I knew where I was heading. But I had no idea where I was or where I was going. I just tried to pretend like I belonged (which seems to have become a running theme in my life!). I just ran up and down the hallways for about half an hour. The more I ran, the more confused I became. I started to panic and felt warm tears beginning to wind their way down my cheeks. The hallways were empty but I passed rooms full of people. I was just so very shy and didn’t know who to ask or what to say. So I kept walking as if I had somewhere to go…and I did…I just had no clue how to get there.
Suddenly, I turned a corner and out of nowhere there stood before me a young girl. She must have been about ten-years-old and she was holding the hand of a very small child. I don’t know who they were or where they came from? The young girl looked at me and said, “Are you looking for the kindergarten classes?” I couldn’t speak a word. I just shook my head. “Go that way,” she said pointing down the hallway behind her. “Just go to the end of the hallway.”
I took off at a run, even too shy and upset to say “thank you.” I ran down the hallway and there it was…my classroom. I stopped running now. I wiped my tears and then casually strolled into the room, hung up my coat and took my seat, shaking my head and acting as if I had meant to be fashionably late. The teacher, Mrs. Gilbertson, stared at me for just a moment but when I refused to say anything or show any kind of reaction, she simply went on with the class. The next day, Grandma dropped me off at the front door of the school and I never complained again. My big girl adventure was over.