Stamps in my passport

I don’t have a bucket list. In fact that very phrase “bucket list” doesn’t have the glamour or the sense of wonder I would require. I mean, I don’t like buckets.  Buckets are for washing floors or painting or bathing babies if you have no other recourse. Actually the image of a baby in a bucket is adorable but it would need to be a very brand new and cute bucket. I digress and will continue to do so. Once I painted the kitchen ceiling for my mother needing cash and found it to be one of the most awful work-related experiences ever.  With the exception of babysitting a psychopathic ten year old who demanded to see my boobs and chased me around with a hockey stick. In any case, I’ve never had that list. However here’s a few things I've managed-completing a full-length triathlon, marrying three times, having a baby, having a glowing review in the Sunday NYT, writing a movie for money, having Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton put their hands on my pregnant belly and bless the unborn child, 72 hours of back labor with aforementioned baby (thanks guys), sleeping in Olive Groves in Corfu and being told by someone that something I had written had changed her life.

Once I believed it would be easy to maintain the edge. I had gone to Ireland my junior year and fearlessly found a place to live, enrolled in classes at Trinity College and discovered a group of friends that helped me completely assimilate. After the year ended, I took money earned by being an extra in a number of films and Television shows, bought a Eurorail pass and travelled around, first with a friend and then alone. I woke up on the deck of a ship bound for Corfu and watched as the shadow of Albania slipped past the railings, made friends with two crazy Norwegians with whom I camped, drank and travelled until they disappeared one night and I went on alone. In Italy I was on a train that left us in a train station in Milan. I unrolled my sleeping bag and woke up to the chatter of Milanese transvestites who were a bit put out by my sleeping in their party spot. Soon the sight of the American girl with the crazy hair won them over, however, and they plied me with chocolate and beer.                                                                                   

I took a train across France to see a friend in Madrid and shared a sleeping compartment with a Spanish family. The youngest child talked in his sleep so I went into the corridor and smoked cigarettes with a handsome soldier bound for some terrible place where they send handsome soldiers. He told me I was very beautiful and we smoked cigarettes and shared a bottle of wine. I finished college, worked in a non-traditional job, quit and moved across the country, driving alone in my VW Beetle, sleeping in cheap motels, a wild child who had no fear. In San Francisco I was a cocktail waitress in a low bottom bar and I hit my own bottom, it was the mid-eighties and drove back east to straighten up and eventually write my first novel.

Yes, it stopped. The baby, the husband, the moving, living in the United States, the death of my sister, my father saying, “Stop running away,” called a halt to my wanderlust. I had a brief slip, a month writing in Taos, New Mexico which might have contributed to the demise of my marriage, not an affair but a return to my essential self, an unafraid artist who considered herself complete without another’s approval. However, I was also a mother of a nearly three-year old boy who held my heart in his hands, whose eyes were my eyes, whose passion was his momma who returned that passion ten times over. 

When I returned to him after a month of being gone he slept so closely next to me every inch of our bodies were in contact and he cried in his sleep saying, “Lost Mommy” over and over again. I gave up.

Now, I have lived in this Midwestern state for a long time, stopped travelling except across the boarder to another Midwestern state or back east to try and figure out how to wrangle my uncontrollable parents. A few months ago, I found myself staring at my new passport, the pretty picture replaced with the face of someone I am finding it a bit hard to recognize. Blank. Completely blank. Not the face. The passport.

Thus, I decided to accept the job offer in Abu Dbabi, to fly across the world to teach English to high school girls and to make a temporary life in a culture so different from my own it will probably feel like I’ve left the planet. I leave behind friends and family, cats and routine. I will need to cover my shoulders and wear long skirts, to listen to a call to prayer 5x a day and accept searing heat. But I survived 2 years in Dallas so none of that will cause much pain. I want to find that wild child who watched the sun rise over Albania. Then I will come home again.


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