My gorgeous granddaughter, Caitlin, recently shared this photo of us on Facebook with these comments:
On the left is my grandma at age 16 and I’m on the right. She is such a beautiful soul. It’s crazy how much I love this woman! The resemblance is also pretty amazing.
My heart literally warmed up when I read that. I responded: “Isn’t that crazy cool?! I love you madly, too, sweet first granddaughter! You’re amazing and I’m proud you’re mine from my first baby girl, too.”
So many friends commented such nice things, but when one asked if that was really me and then said “Wow!!” when I confirmed, I had to laugh and wonder if I really was that unrecognizable from that girl today. I answered another friend with “What’s funny but sad is that I still see myself that way inside and am sometimes totally shocked when I look in the mirror and don’t see her!”
Today I am 50 years older than that girl in the picture. Thinking back on who I was then led to so many thoughts romping through my head and heart. I remembered that I ran away from home the next year after that picture was taken with my first love, got pregnant almost immediately and when I gave birth to my first child, I was convinced I would be a much better mother than mine had been.
My relationship with my mom was not exactly warm and close as I was growing up, especially when I got into the hippie rebellion teenage years. But as I got older, she got wiser and I will always treasure the trips we took together in my motorhome. By the time she died in 2014, we had fulfilled a lot of travel dreams we both always had – see Memories of My Mama for recaps of those trips.
Both of my daughters inherited from me through my mom the “family curse.” You know, the one you utter when you get so frustrated with whatever they’re doing at the time that you say, “I hope when you grow up, you have a daughter just like you!”
After watching what my oldest daughter went through with her daughter at times made me wish I could revoke the curse, but that’s not allowed in the original terms of cursedom. But she persevered through it all and I couldn’t be prouder of the woman she is today.
I’ve had some really special times with Caitlin, too, both before I started traveling and on my trips back to Austin. This one at Zilker Park in 2002 stands out to me because I could tell then that she was growing up too fast for grandma’s liking. 🙂 Here’s she’s telling me, “Don’t worry, grandma, I’m not going to fall in!”
Later watching her struggles when she herself became such a young mother of twins makes me proud that ultimately she always decides to do what is best for her girls, which makes her a great mother in my book.
I still struggle sometimes being so far away from them so much of the time as I follow my travel dreams down the road. I wrote about it in 2003 when I was planning my big Alaska trip:
“I’ve really been missing my kids, also. If anyone asks what is the hardest part of what I’m doing I’d have to say that’s it – the not being there for the everyday sort of things – making “mommy” soup when they’re sick, the kisses and hugs missed – that’s the biggest price I pay for this journey I’ve chosen. But sometimes passion comes with a price and right now at least, I am willing to pay it to follow mine.
It’s also a little like the cosmic tables have turned, also. When I was trying to stay close to them and keep them my babies, they were wanting to grow up and be as far away from me as they could get. And it wasn’t always easy to recognize that just because I wanted to keep them close by and safe from the big bad world, it was more important to foster a sense of independence in them. Better to encourage them to explore their own worlds and fulfill their own dreams.
I hope that they will now allow me that same opportunity and not begrudge their mom’s journey too much. So while it still hurts to hear my baby say she misses her mommy, I also hope that by demonstrating and proving the possibility of what some would say is impossible, that they will take that proof to their own hearts – that my granddaughter will know because she has seen it done – that she has the power to make her dreams reality. I hope that will serve a purpose at least as helpful as my mere presence would be if I were there not being true to myself and my own dreams.”
A couple of years later, I was still dealing with it:
“In the four years that I’ve been on the road fulltime, there have been times when I was far away from my family that I wondered if the life I have chosen was fair to them. Was it right to remove myself from their lives for such long stretches of time? My daughters may both be strong and capable women with lives of their own, and my teenage granddaughter is busy with all the normal (and sometimes scary) business of growing up, but that doesn’t mean they won’t always be my “babies.” I still worry about them and know that my being closer would be of help — and grandma would like to be able to spoil her only grandchild a bit more.
I may not have found any real answers, but I am extremely grateful that all of my kids, grandkids and great grandkids seem to understand my wanderlust and desire to see as much of the natural beauty in this country as possible. They never try to make me feel guilty for what I’m not doing for them. A couple of years ago, one of the twins asked why I had to leave and the other said, “Because she’s a nature girl like me.” All I could think of was, “Wow, this 8 year old really gets me!”
I’m grateful for family who truly love me and misses me when I’m gone.
For those following The New Adventures of Old Malia, I went in for the CT scan yesterday and will update once I get the results.