When I was a kid I used to stand on ledges and look down. Knees knocking. Dizzy head hallucinating. Fearing the fall. I’d climb roofs, swaying tree branches, barn lofts, even had this pirate crow’s nest atop my house, how could I not seek the top of the mast?
Standing there with my toes over the ledge staring at certain death. Why not leap? It makes more sense than turning around, cowering, and heading back the way I came.
The last few weeks have been all about Europe. As we prepare for the flight to Rome, bags are packed and stacked by the door, tickets and passports and insurance cards stand at the ready. Itinerary is full. It is night and my daughters are sound asleep. The rain has stopped pounding the city for the night and I can open the windows and let the hot air wash over me in silence. Looking down, nineteen floors up, I feel I am about to jump again.
A Photograph of Anne
I decided to keep one, a little token of the year I’ve had. A picture taken some time ago of an old student. I’ve folded it nice and neatly into my wallet as if she were a niece or daughter and not the enemy she became. It reminds me that this thing I love more than life itself, standing in the classroom, could be used to hurt and destroy me, if I allow it. I carry it with me always.
Two Pairs of Sandals
I have essentially been reduced to two colors, both depended on the belt I have chosen for that day. Is that so sad? Oh yes, those Nike shoes are still here on the shelf collecting dust, but not in this heat. Taiwan’s humidity has forced me to roam in leather straps of ancient wear.
Sandals always make me think of the Bible. Apostle Paul walking down dusty roads musing sermons in his mind, or the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her hair. Sandals show your simplicity, and I wouldn’t wander to Rome or Athens without them.
A Shiny New Rucksack
“O where have you been, my blue-eyed son?” That old Dylan song, that’s what I think about when I look at my old wrecked army rucksack with all the European patches that used to hang on my classroom wall. Smelling of dusty bus rides and island salt air, busted up bottles of wine and time. I used to think it even looked like me. How could that be?
But like all things, it was time for a replacement, and now I have a new bag. Rugged and held together with straps. Nylon not canvas. Couple of zippers on the back I could open with my eyes closed. With padding for a laptop and secret pockets for chocolates, I slept with it next to my little cot on the floor and the following morning put Kinu inside and carried her around the living room, laughing and squealing with delight. Her sisters don’t understand that they have grown too big to fit in daddy’s pack, anymore.
No shame. They are able to carry their own rucksacks now.
So we leave tomorrow, flying out to Rome while it is still yet dark. We’ve been counting down days on the little magnet calendar I pull from the wall each night during our storytime. I show the girls Italy and Greece on the large map hanging on the wall. Pointing with a chopstick, I show them Mykonos in the Mediterranean and Ephesus in Turkey. I explain things slow, but they know the tale now by heart.
“See, this is America, and we are from the state of Oregon and the beautiful city of Portland. Years ago we got on a plane and passed your mother’s country of Korea and came here to Taiwan, but we are not Taiwanese. We are not Chinese either. We are jumpers, and we travel the world because we know no other way.”