Category Archives: The Girlfriend Mom

Why No Kids

Childless by Choice Issues? Enough Already!

Is it time to mute the childless by choice debate?

Is it time to mute the childless by choice debate?

Let’s finish the week off with a quick look at Dani Alpert’s rant on HuffPo about childless by choice oversaturation. Sure, it’s a few weeks overripe, and there’s something decidedly disingenuous about reposting a post about the fact that there’s too much posting about childless by choice issues, but… I can’t resist.

Why do the Childless by Choice still feel the need to defend their decisions? Why is this still relevant? With all that’s going on in the world; Isis, Ebola, climate change, George Clooney’s wedding, why does anyone give a sh*t about the 10 things not to say to a CBC person? ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)

Right. Why? Sometimes I want to throw around asterisk-ornamented bombs myself, let off a little steam and tell all the bingo brandishing breeders to cut me some slack. To cut us some slack. Why is it any of their business whether or not my wife and I are childless by choice?

The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know why the debate grows louder and more caustic instead of vanishing quietly into the background. Are childless by choice adults defensive? Maybe. But honestly, it usually feels like it’s the way around. I’ve honestly never heard CBCs question a parent’s choice. Never! But parents frequently question our choice to remain childfree. So you tell me, who’s being defensive?

I will never understand why what I do, and don’t do, with my uterus matters to anyone else but me and my gynecologist. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)

Okay, so let’s cut to the chase. This is exactly the sort of gem that I couldn’t resist highlighting and echoing back across the interwebs. Seriously! And here’s another.

Do us all a favor and read a book, go to the movies or join the army. Whatever you do… stay out of my bed and womb. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)

Wow! Dani’s pulling no punches. Sure, it’s effective venting language, and she’s certainly grabbed the “Hey, look at me!” spotlight, but there’s more to it than that. She’s right. She isn’t refocusing the debate. She is annulling the debate. Parents who question and/or judge their childless by choice friends are WAY out of bounds. Period.

Dani touches briefly on feminism and explains that she’s metaphorically “mothered” people, things, even a short film. She totally groks the mothering/parenting instinct, a point that she underlines in her stream of conscious list of CBC related thoughts. But that’s not the point. The point, is she wants everyone to shut the $&@%! up and start talking about something more important.

Fair enough. Let’s distance ourselves from the judgment. Let’s remember that how a woman chooses to uses her uterus is her business. Let’s recognize that questioning/judging a woman’s childfree choice is no less inappropriate and offensive than a CBC woman questioning/judging a mother’s decision to get pregnant, carry the baby to term, and keep it after birth.

But healthy conversation about the childless by choice option is just as important, especially for young women, as information about pregnancy, birthing, parenting. There is an awful lot of social programming to balance out, and women should be empowered to make the choice whether or not to become mothers with knowledge, intention, and confidence. That will not happen in a vacuum. Nor will it happen in a bellicose atmosphere of judgment. Let’s create a friendlier, more informative, more nurturing process for women and men to determine the the best choices. Sounds reasonable, right?

Icelandic Revenge Travel Part Four

Icelandic revenge travelEver since my ex-husband went to see David Bowie (may he rest in peace) in concert, in Reykjavik in 1997, I’ve been fascinated by the Nordic island country.

So when my parents planned a family vacation to Iceland a couple of years ago, I thought, yea us! I was terribly, terribly excited.

Unfortunately only a few months shy of lift off, plans had to be scratched due to my dad’s pesky double bypass surgery. Whatever.

Truth be told, I had doubts about traveling with my family. Five days together in a foreign country, where we were going to hike steep cliffs, share a narrow steel cage as we’re lowered into a volcano, and carry sharp ice picks while mountaineering, was probably four days too long.

We’re just not that family. You know, the family that takes holiday vacations together; renting cabins on lakes in the summer, or grazing the buffets on a cruise ship. The fact that we meet up at Thanksgiving every year is a Christmas miracle.

We used to travel together, but that was before my brother and I could drive. Now it’s only on a ‘need to see’ basis. Trust me, it’s best for everyone.

I wasn’t mad at my dad for having a bum heart (although no one made him smoke two packs a day for 20 years) but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed. I really wanted to go to Iceland. I had my electric heated gloves already packed. 

Cut to: My ex-boyfriend went to Iceland. Oh, no he di-int, (I said like a preacher in church on Sunday morning). Funny how the time seemed just right for me to charge my electric heated gloves and start packing.   

And then I wondered, if I go to Iceland now, everyone’s going to think that I was following my ex and that Iceland was his idea. (I’m not sure who everyone was, or why they’d care). Please refer to paragraph one for the facts. 

As soon as I found my way out of the sandbox, I grabbed my family’s original Icelandic itinerary, made a few tweaks and off I went.

It took two and a half hours to go from my apartment in mid-town Manhattan to JFK. I’m convinced that my cab driver was legally blind. At the very least he had cataracts. He had zero idea where he was going, and clueless about short cuts that would bypass the standstill rush hour traffic. He even had the balls to blame me for not suggesting that we take the bridge. What bridge? WTF?!

When we got to JFK, two of my credit cards didn’t work, so I paid cash, which was fine, but ‘blind man river’ never moved from the front seat. 

“So, you’re not going to help me with my bag?” He looked at me, mumbled something under his breath that sounded a lot like, “no, I don’t…” and he trailed off. He popped the trunk and picked up his cell phone. I grabbed my suitcase and slammed the trunk shut.

By the time I went through security, my blood pressure had leveled off to a healthy resting state. I walked onto the plane, only to find my aisle seat actually in the aisle. Literally. Look at the picture. It was the bulk head but for whatever dumbass reason, the dumbass engineers shifted it into the aisle. I begged for sleep.

IN THE AISLE

Despite the early hassles, I fell in love with Iceland. And because I’m not a travel writer by trade, I will only regale you with a personal story that I believe is the answer to what’s troubling the world today. 

One day I joined a tour that was headed to the Langjokull glacier. Skarpi, a sexy, and adorable man in his 30’s was our driver and guide. He was funny, a former professional basketball player (now personal trainer). We laughed and flirted the entire ride. I definitely saw a future with this man, had it not been for his wife and 3 kids, (and the one on the way).

He surprised the entire van of strangers when he spoke candidly about the likelihood of getting a vasectomy. I guess four kids were enough.

Skarpi mentioned that his family lived near the President of Iceland, as well as the singer, Bjork. “Oh, I love Human Behavior,” I shamelessly tried to impress.

He then told us this adorable story.

“My kids were going around the neighborhood collecting bottles and cans to raise money for a school project one day and when they got to the President’s house, he and his wife, who’s Jewish….” Whoa, hold up their Sharpie marker. What does her being Jewish have anything to do with recycling bottles? I thought, please don’t make any racist remarks like, Jews don’t drink carbonated beverages… except for seltzer, ba-dum tss.) He continued.

“The President answered the door and told my kids that he didn’t have any bottles or cans because…”  I held my breath. “…neither me or my wife drink soda.” I exhaled. 

It was a story with absolutely no pay off whatsoever, but Sharpie marker’s accent was hot, so, I hoped that he had more long and boring stories. 

We drove through isolated, fascinating and breathtaking landscapes. If you’d like more descriptions go here. I’m not a travel writer, remember.

Many internationally famous locations were pointed out to us like where Justin Bieber shot his music video, “I’ll Show You” and where Tom Cruise’s tour de force, “Oblivion,” was filmed. I know, who cares, right? Just keep talking Sharpie. 

We reached Langjokull Glacier, suited up, and climbed on board our snowmobiles. I’m fully aware of global warming and leaving my exhaust-filled footprint on that glacier, and I can honestly say that I won’t be doing it again. But it was friggin’ awesome.

I asked the guides how they felt about tourists traipsing over their glacier. They said that it was so ginormous that they weren’t concerned. I’m sure Antarctica felt the same way once upon a time. I told them that they should limit the traipsing if they could help it. 

We reached a stellar peak and stopped to take pictures. Sharpie approached me and asked if I could take the young Iranian boy, who was on the tour with his family, on the back of my snowmobile because his older brother crashed the snowmobile that they were both on. “Of course,” I said. Anything for you. 

Wait, I wondered, don’t the parents want to meet me? They were on their own machine a fair distance away from me. When I caught their eye, they just smiled. They didn’t say anything about me taking their son under my preverbal wing. 

The young boy climbed on the back of my snowmobile. 

I thought, wow, they must really be trusting people. They didn’t ask for credentials, or have me sign a waiver. They just let me drive off with their son. Then again, where was I going? It wasn’t likely that I’d make a break for it and motor over the 360 square miles of white and ice by my lonesome. 

I drove forty miles an hour taking hair pin turns and racing the other drivers up and down hills. I kept my passenger and myself alive, and in smiles. I felt a sense of responsibility; for someone else’s child, and for US and Iranian relations. The optics couldn’t be ignored. People were watching.

Maybe we should all carry strangers on our back, so to speak, in the middle of nowhere, where nothing matters but staying upright because you’re laughing wildly with delight. 

There was a Dead Body in Costa Rica: Revenge Travel Part Three

dead body

PhotoCredit:hcareers.com

And now another installment of Revenge Travel: Part Three. You can read other installments here and here

The tattooed and strategically pierced Yogi looked confused. “Can I ask why you want to cancel your tour?”

“Well, mainly because I just heard that a dead body was found in the river, and I’m not too psyched about stand up paddle boarding alongside corpses– er corpse.”

“A dead body?” Her tone was more amused than shocked. “We didn’t hear anything about that.” 

“Another guest just told me that her SUP tour was cancelled because they were dragging the body out of the water.”

“Hold on a minute, let me check.” Her words expressed concern but her body language was more, where’s the party. Five minutes later Miss Front Desk Manager reappeared, smiling as if someone had just given her a puppy.

“Oh, no, he wasn’t dead. He was drunk.”

And scene.

And that was how my entire trip to Costa Rica went—bizarrely. 

I didn’t friggin’ care if this unfortunate person was sleeping off the previous night’s bachelor party blowout at the Plankton Club  or he tripped, hit his head on a coconut, drowned and was now floating upstream, I was not about to cruise along the water’s surface and swim with the fishes— if you know what I mean.

You know what else I wasn’t going to share the waters with  Crocodiles. Yeah, the friggin’ resort where I was staying failed to slip me that little bit of information. I overheard some of the other guests talking about it at breakfast.

Was I missing something? How could these people expect me to relax and stay upright on a paddle board when all I would be thinking about were drunk (or dead) bodies and crocodiles underneath me.

I wasn’t going to be able to take a leisurely tour through Mangrove tunnels when at any moment, I might be attacked. Why wasn’t this information shared? Maybe some of the tattoo ink had seeped into her bloodstream and affected her ability to, oh, I don’t know, think! 

SIDE NOTE: When I read the tour description (and clearly not very closely) I thought it said, “Paddle through Mango trees.” I thought that sounded sweet and funsy. I didn’t think that I’d be paddling through a swamp with who knows what lurking just below the surface. 

I had zero interest in navigating through this particular river unless I was dressed head to toe in rust proof armor. 

dead body

Swamp Thing

I brought my concerns up with Miss Front Desk Manager and I asked to switch my activity to something a bit safer and less frightening to me like zip lining or bungee jumping off of a bridge. 

She giggled. “Oh, the crocodiles aren’t going to hurt you. They’re only this big.” She stretched out her arms measuring about two feet. 

I was amazed that, instead of showing compassion and sympathy for my fears, she tried to convince me that the crocs were harmless and that they were more afraid of me than I was of them. Where was this woman’s humanity? 

“Are you kidding? I don’t care if they’re ten inches. It’s not happening.”

I’m already uneasy when I’m in the ocean, let alone a brackish, jungle on the river where I can’t see squat. I love the water, I do, but only if I can see the bottom floor, and what’s floating around me— hopefully nothing is floating around me.

This woman stared at me, looking eerily like a Stepford Wife and I know that she was judging me. I was not being taken seriously and I wondered if she was familiar with the term, the customer (or in this case guest) is always right and that perhaps she would benefit from some night classes in hospitality and customer service at the nearby community college. 

I wasn’t being unreasonable, but she waved me (and my terror) off, as if I were a gnat that had landed on the Buddha tattoo on her chest (how original), nonetheless. My protestations were completely dismissed. Did she have a lobotomy? Was I speaking Swahili? Did she think that I was doing a comedic bit? (not this time.)

I was in utter disbelief that an establishment would fear shame one of their guests into taking a SUP tour alongside drunk (or dead) people and crocodiles.

Needless to say that cancelling my tour was a challenge. But after I went a few rounds with the staff, I was able to switch to an ATV ride to a waterfall, a waterfall that had as much power and awe as the drip coming from my outdoor shower head (that Miss Front Desk Manager told me could not be fixed)… whole other story. 

 

A Colonoscopy Pick Me Up

Colonoscopy

PhotoCredit;TaxiDriver

There’s nothing quite as humbling as a consultation with a gastroenterologist in preparation of your first colonoscopy. Get the hell on the table and let’s have a looksy.
The doctor, who looked like she might still be playing with American Girl dolls, walked into the examination room. “You look so familiar?” ReallyI thought. Wait till you see my other end.
Anyhoo, she sat down at a small desk and removed a piece of paper from her folder. It was a page long list of questions. “Do you have depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping?” I looked at her. “I’m human and I’m breathing.”
She smiled. “Good point.”
I finished answering her questions, and she went on to tell me about the procedure, and, in great detail, what she was going to do to me.
I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape over a colonoscopy. I’ve given myself an enema or two— there was a time in the early 90’s when it was au courant. And, well, let’s just say that I’m not butt shy. What’s the big whoop.
I think it’s fascinating that we can see the lining of the large intestine that’s projected onto a screen, like a movie. I’m not sure, however, that if I went to medical school, gastroenterologist would be the speciality that I’d raise my hand for. What makes a person say, “Me! Me! I want to do that. Sign me up.”
“So we’ll inject you with a…” I interrupted.
“Does anyone ever opt for no anesthesia?”
She shook her head. “Some. But very rarely.”
“What kind of people want to go it alone?”
“All kinds. Some women who’ve had natural childbirth, some people have medical conditions. Some just don’t like to be sedated. I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Is it painful, painful, or just uncomfortable painful?” I like to test my limits, and it would be interesting to know what my threshold was. Like climbing Kilimanjaro.
“It’s painful, painful. And once we start, we can’t stop. It’s like having a big gas bubble inserted inside, and you feel very full. It makes taking deep breaths, or bearing down because of the pain very challenging.”
She had me at gas bubble. I’ve been doubled over in that hellish pain at the most inopportune moments (sex) and it is not a day at the races. Anesthesia it is.
Then I suddenly realized that I didn’t know much about this doctor. “How long have you been doing this?”
“Over ten years for this particular procedure.”
“So you’ve probably done hundreds, right?”
“Yes, too many.” Oh, my god, she sounded bored. I didn’t want a bored doctor probing my insides.
“Okay, but you’re going to be super excited on the 12th, right? It’s going to be fun. You’ve never had me on the table. It’s going to be a party, right? Bring your A game.”
“Of course. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Do I get a copy of the video? I have one of my Lasik eye surgery and it was a real crowd pleaser. I’d be fun to be able to show a double feature. The holidays are coming up.”
“No, but I might be able to hook you up with a few photos.”
“Done.”
She smiled but she was ready for this consult to be over. “You can pick up your prep instructions at the front desk. The procedure should only take about an hour, or less. And you’ll want to have someone pick you up afterwards.” And with that she was gone.
Uh, oh. I started to gather up my belongings. Who was going to pick me up on a Thursday morning? The handful of people that I knew will be at work. The other handful live in California, and my parents will have already flown the coop for their winter resting place in Florida. Who’s left?
On my walk home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I didn’t have a single person that I could call and ask for this favor. Do I really need someone to pick me up? How out of it am I going to be? Maybe it’ll be like a hangover. Maybe I should go drug-free.
As I made my way across town, I started laughing to myself. Wouldn’t it be funny if I asked my ex-boyfriend’s daughter to pick me up? We’re close. And then I stopped laughing. That would be so inappropriate, and unreasonable, especially since she didn’t even live in the city.
I laughed again. Ooh, what if I asked my ex to pick me up? It’s the least that he could do. I picked him up after his ass probe. I was right there when he opened his eyes after the anesthesia wore off. Or was that my dad?
No, seriously because I think I also picked up my dad once after his probe and drove him home. Where the hell was my mom?
The pity party is over. I’ll figure it out. Please don’t respond to this post with a ride offer. I appreciate the thought, but it would be weird. I don’t even know you.
Shit, was this why people had kids?
I think I’ll be able to hobble outside of the doctor’s office and hail a cab. Ooh, wait, I wonder what my doorman is doing on the 12th.

 

My Meeting with Courtney Love, A True Love Story

PhotoCredit:SheKnows.com

PhotoCredit:SheKnows.

When I was with my boyfriend, (now ex) and I got to know his kids better, I marveled at their impeccable timing; better than any Borscht Belt comic. Their opinions were unfiltered, and they were often unsolicited.

One day, I sat down next to my boyfriend’s son in the living room, and settled in for some mindless (is there any other kind?) television watching. Out of nowhere, he asked, “Have you ever worked on movie sets?”

Startled, I whipped my head around. “What?” Hearing this innocent nine-year-old boy say “movie set,” made me laugh. It had been years since I’d worked on a movie set, and for a moment, I forgot that I actually had.

“Yes, I have.”

He continued. “Have you ever met any famous people or celebrities?”

I rarely talked about my life in Hollywood with my boyfriend and his kids, and I wondered what had prompted these questions.

“Sure, I’ve met famous people and celebrities.”

“Like who?” he asked.

And with that, my mind went tabula rasa. After a slight hesitation, I replied, “Cyndi Lauper.”

He crinkled his tiny face, disappointed. “Who?”

I should have seen that one coming. He was relentless. “Were you in any movies like you see in the movie theater?”

One minute we’re watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and the next, my résumé is being called into question. Was he going to ask me for references next? Again, I hesitated because I had forgotten my own credits.

I stared at this cherub. I was so nervous being the Girlfriend Mom. I wanted to see where the role would take me but I also didn’t want to forget how I got there; in a living room with a child, who was interrogating me like a murder suspect.

I looked over at him. “Okay, you got me, I’ll talk.”

My writing partner and I wrote a screenplay that received all kinds of Hollywood buzz; the kind of buzz that first-time screenwriters dream about while they’re writing in smelly corners of the only Starbucks in town that doesn’t have a restroom. I always wanted to be a card-carrying member of one of the most exclusive clubs in Hollywood, if not in the entire free world.

A top agent signed us, and we dined with studio executives and producers who pitched us movie ideas. “A ballet dancer succumbs to lethal plantar warts and is forced to make a tough decision: live with constant pain or go under the knife, which could lead to infection and end her dancing career. While lying on the operating table, the anesthesiologist professes his desire for her and her warts. They fall in love, but the operation is botched, and she never dances again. It’s Erin Brockovich meets Black Swan by way of Love Story.”

One day we had a meeting with Courtney Love. She wanted to pitch us a movie idea. It was surreal. I was green to the ways of Hollywood, but the effect that being noticed can have on one’s ego? It’s astonishing. I walked a little bit taller. I got so ahead of myself that my shadow struggled to keep up.

Ms. Love was coming off a string of box office hits like The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. She was a serious and couture-wearing actress now; no longer known just as Kurt Cobain’s wife and the lead singer of Hole.

We rendezvoused at Ms. Love’s home in the Hollywood Hills. I expected tall hedges and barbed wire fences, and then realized she didn’t live in a prison. She’d didn’t even have a gate; even my parents have a gate.

Her manager greeted us at the front door, and as she ushered us in, my partner whispered to me. “We take matches or something from the bathroom as a souvenir.” She was always joking.

I thought it would be nifty if we had a trinket from Courtney Love’s commode. My friend Katy brought me back rusty nails from Cher’s new Malibu beach house when it was under construction. She and her wife were friends of Cher’s, and they knew what a huge fan I was, so they brought me a memento. It was supposed to hold me over until they could set up an actual meeting with the Dark Lady herself. I’m still waiting for my face to face. (If I wait much longer, it’s going to be surgically enhanced face to surgically enhanced face.)

We sat on Courtney’s tailored linen couch in the library, and I already imagined future meetings with Ms. Love as our relationship blossomed. I lived in Seattle for a year and a half during the early days of grunge, so I already felt a kinship. Never mind that I spent most of my time there working backstage on such distinguished theatrical productions as A Shayna Maidel at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.

Ms. Love sauntered into the room, looking fabulous. Her conservative blond bob, Dolce & Gabbana leather pencil skirt, Burberry blazer, and, I believe, newly sculpted nose screamed, Here I am, motherf’er. 

From the moment she said, “Hello, nice to meet you guys,” to our departure an hour later, she was effusive and long-winded. “Did you know that this was Ellen’s old house? I had it redecorated, natch. Do you like the Stickley chairs? Have either of you read Proust?”

Before I had a chance to recall what Proust had written, she was discoursing on the virtues of anal bleaching. She insisted that we go to her favorite place Pink Cheeks on Ventura Boulevard—because who doesn’t want a pink and refreshed-looking butthole?

SIDE NOTE: I left this part out of the story because he was a child.

We stood up to leave, and walked to the front door. I looked in the direction of the kitchen, and caught a glimpse of Courtney’s daughter, Frances Bean, who was six years old and looked exactly like her father.

In the end we failed to impress Ms. Love, and the experience became just another in a long list of pitches, promises, and potentials.

Shortly after, my partner and I parted ways due to creative differences. I remember during one of our last conversations she said that I was being didactic. I shouted back defensively, “No, I’m not.” I might as well have added, “I know you are but what am I?”

I had no effing idea what didactic meant and I looked it up in the dictionary when I got home.

Didactic: intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive: in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way. Okay, maybe I was.

My boyfriend’s son sat up on the couch, looked at me, and cocked his head. “So you weren’t in the movies?”

 

 

Tripping with My Ex-Boyfriend’s Daughter

Tripping with my ex-boufriend's daughter

Tripping

Does a stepparent relinquish their title, and the unspoken rights, responsibilities, support, care and concern, (often included in the character description) if the relationship ends in divorce?

And what the hell happens in a Girlfriend Mom situation… I don’t know either.

I no longer wear the sash and crown, but there are certain habits and emotional bonds that were formed during my halcyon days as the reining Girlfriend Mom, that have stayed with me nearly three years after the so-called divorce. The role will forever remain in my heart as the most unexpected, and enlightening that I have had the privaledge of playing. And I played Leper #2 in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar in theater camp.

It was because of these unique relationships, (that seem to be defined, and then redefined every few months) that I took SN (the daughter) on a road trip last Fall from Portland, Oregon to La Jolla, California for her college graduation gift.

A few family members and friends thought it was strange that I was taking a trip with my ex-boyfriend’s daughter. These were some of the same people who thought that it was weird that I still saw the kids. SN’s mother thought it was a wonderful opportunity for her daughter and thanked me. I didn’t need to be thanked because it was my absolute pleasure and joy.

I wanted to make the trip more than SN. I knew firsthand how life affirming such an experience could be. I made the same excursion when I was her age, after my college graduation. After four years in Manhattan, side-stepping dog poop on the sidewalks on my way to class, knocking into Wall Streeter’s as they hustled to the subway, I  hit the road and drove across the country over the summer.

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to drive across America. I read Kerouac’s, On The Road, watched both Easy Rider, and Lost in America, and the idea of living moment to moment; no plans or schedule was alluring and sexy.

I imagined driving through towns with populations under a hundred. I fantasized about having to get a waitress job in a honkey tonk (even though I’d never waited tables before) because I ran out of money. Perhaps I’d get hired to wax surf boards in a shop along the California coast, even though I’d never set foot on a board. I romanticized the road because I’d been dodging crack dealers on my way to my dorm. Anything would be better than that.

I’d learn how to ride a motorcycle. I’d pick up hitchhikers bumming for lifts. They’d teach me about the world; sharing their wisdom gleaned from years living according to their chakras and not in the chokehold of societal expectations, norms and conventions. These free spirits would regale me with pearls from the backseat of my car, while chewing tobacco, and using an empty Coke bottle as their spittoon.

To be twenty-two.

I used the money that I’d saved over the years in a giant pink piggy bank that my parent’s had bought me when I was nine years old, to fund my trip.

The bank lived on the bottom shelf of my bookcase in my childhood bedroom. It was so big that I doubted that it would ever be full, but I dropped coins into the slit on its back every chance I got.

My parents told me (although it was couched as a suggestion) to wait until the pig was full before I uncorked its underbelly. They assured me that it would be more exciting and gratifying than if I withdrew money every time I wanted another Bonne Bell 7-Up Lip Smacker, which was often.

What ten-year-old girl is going to understand the concept of saving, patience and restriction? It was friggin’ Bonne Bell. Yes, I dipped into the bank on more than one occasion.

As I got older and more disciplined, it became easier to resist the urge to crack open the swine before she was up to her snout in metal and couldn’t take one more thin dime. She did taunt me, especially when my babysitting jobs dried up in the winter of ’83 but I stayed the course.

By the time I graduated college, the bank had been full for several months. I suspect that my parents dropped a few shekels in while I was away at school.

Soon after graduation, I went into my bedroom, closed the door and pulled the weighty bank off of the shelf. I plucked the stopper, emptied the contents onto my medium pile chocolate brown shag rug, and began the laborious task of rolling the coins into their respective denomination wrappers. This was long before the coin machines in local supermarkets. I rolled until I lost feeling in my fingers.

It was mind-numbing and it required a gross amount of concentration and counting. Anyone who knows me, knows that I find counting mentally exhausting.

As I sat with my legs crossed hunched over mounds of coins (as a Pilates instructor I shudder at the visual) I kept having to remind myself of how many nickels were in a two-dollar wrapper. The whole ordeal made me dizzy.

As the rolls piled high, forming miniature pyramids on my rug, my anticipation increased—How far would the money take me? Would I have to get a job bartending? 

When the wrapping was complete, I went to the bank and cashed out. If memory serves, I had over six hundred dollars in dusty and sticky pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I found several half dollars and a handful of silver dollars. I vaguely remember getting those as birthday presents from my grandfather. At the time, I couldn’t get over the fact that a dollar could be a coin.

I also found a peso or two in the mix, which was odd because I hadn’t been to a country where the local currency was a Pesos. Dad?

I had money to make a childhood dream come true and nothing felt sweeter. I was rich!

Once I climbed behind the wheel and was on the road, I tossed my shoes into the backseat of my Honda Accord and crossed over the first of many state lines. I felt as if I’d been infused with a dose of freedom. I hadn’t done a lot of traveling up to that cross country point and I was captivated by the enormity of the country, and awed by the vastness and the quiet. It was eye opening in ways that I had only read about or seen in the movies.

I imagined my foot glued to the gas pedal, never to return to New York. I’d only driven 700 miles from home, but I was convinced that I belonged on the road, and that I would be happy wandering for the rest of my life.

To be twenty-two.

Decades later, I hoped that SN’s experience would be as thrilling as my first time was. I’d play the part of the wise hitchhiker, imparting sage advice, only without the tobacco. I was anxious to see the roads of my youth, and to be seeing them through SN’s youthful eyes.

To be continued…