I never took that trip
My Grandfather was a gypsy. Well, not really. He was a welder. Born in Mexico City, though he’d spend his life denying it due to the bigotry and racism he encountered being from “across the border” and living in Los Angeles, in the ’40s. He told everyone he was born in Spain, that he was European, changing his last name, and marrying a girl that was first generation American. Her family actual European immigrants, coming from Denmark and Germany. My Grandfather had an infectious laugh, a love of big band music and Mariachi, and of the long and winding road. He would drive anywhere. All you had to say was “let’s go”. He managed to make any holiday an excuse to pack up the van, or the RV and set off to discover someplace new.
My Grandmother was more of the home and hearth type. She didn’t enjoy life on the road, though she always came along for the ride, often sitting in the farthest backspace, complaining about the twists and turns, the heights on travels that took us up mountains and cliff sides, often threatening to get out of the vehicle and walk back home. Looking back, I wonder if she protested too much. If there was something more to the bickering and heated words between them, barbed pointy things that would come out while he kept driving. Did she enjoy the fighting? The complaining? Or was there resentment between them that I will never know?
Maybe she secretly loved the trips and travel.
Or maybe I just want to believe that because I find it so hard to fathom why she wouldn’t love every minute of it. I know I did.
My Grandfather let me ride shotgun. He gave me the job of the navigator, of opening the complicated folds of the map that were far too big for my small arms to outstretch completely. The job included being an eagle eye to all things interesting, to point out roadside attractions, and search and find the best places to stop for a meal, or a soft serve ice cream cone. I quickly learned that the smaller, unassuming diners were usually the best choice and that a story can be crafted out of just about anything you set your mind to. We used to be the only ones still awake and talking, as we rolled through the desert in the middle of the night, building on stories one or the other would start, inspired from a lone, misshapen cactus, or a counter clerk with an unusual laugh who rang us up a full tank of gas and glass bottles of Coca Cola.
My Grandfather taught me the love of the road, and of telling stories. In many ways, he helped shape the writer in me. I know when my restlessness hits the first thing I long for is to just hit the road and go. Sometimes its a weakness in me, a lack of desire to stay in one place for too long, my commitment issues to anything and anyone beyond my children. At times, though, I think it is one of my finest strengths, as it has made me flexible, adaptable, and capable to start over – and capable of knowing (and believing) that starting over is always an option. It has saved my life before in more ways than I care to express today. It may very well save my life again.
I know that I see the world differently because of my Grandfather. That I see possibilities and histories and stories to tell in everyone I come across, and how I’m often burning to tell them or write them all down. I know that my gypsy soul and the writer that I am is more than partially due to him, and I wish sometimes that I could travel back in time and tell him just how much he meant to me, and how much he has made me the woman that I am – a writer, a traveler, a gypsy, a survivor, a lover of change, and of the road itself.