Staying put doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t view this as a blessing or a curse, just a fact – similar to the facts that I have green eyes, I’m tall, and I sleep with the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable. It’s who I am.
My dad was a wanderlust. At times I wonder if this is part of an undiscovered gene mutation. Like me, his eyes were green, and he couldn’t go to an airport without itching to get on a flight.
One of my first crystal clear memories as a child is sobbing at the bus station in New Jersey, waving goodbye and screaming as he set off for JFK airport and onto an African safari. That night, my mother let me eat dinner in the den while I watched TV – privileges unheard of in our family. In the middle of Walt Disney, the phone rang. My dad was coming home.
That summer we spent the money he saved by canceling his trip and drove across country to the opening of a new theme park, Disneyland. I never admitted to my dad that I was over his leaving that night. He never let me forget the trip he missed and the reason he missed it.
A week or two after my mother died, he called. “I just booked a vacation. Where do you think I’m going? Guess…. Africa. Where else?” My mother never loved travel, she never wanted to spend the money. After her death, my father set off on a course of near constant travel, Europe, Egypt, Australia, India – and of course, Africa. Sometimes he took my sister. Then he remarried and traveled with his wife.
At a too young age he developed Alzheimer’s disease. His travel slowed then stopped. One day my aunt called to tell me he had died. “Aunt June, I’m on my way to Greece in the morning.” Without thinking she said, “Go. You have to go. No one would want that more than your dad.” So I went.
When I returned to New Jersey to visit his grave, his foot stone was inscribed: Harry Holloway, Traveler. He always told me he planned to engrave his tombstone with the one word which most described him, but it was never traveler. Few people can understand why I went to Greece, but standing there, I knew my father did. Frankly, that was all that mattered.
Last week, my daughter, Taylor, flew to Kathmandu – stopping en route for two nights in Budapest. Tomorrow, she flies to the start point of the Everest base camp trek. She raised funds for a local orphanage, and she will volunteer there.
At the age of 22, she has backpacked Europe, studied abroad, spent two summers in South America volunteering, and schlepped with her brothers to all 50 states in a series of summer vacations. After this trip, she will spend seven weeks in Guatemala in a Spanish immersion program before returning to Philadelphia and a job – the real world.
For good or for bad, I understand Taylor – the constant pull to explore. It’s been the blessing and the curse of my existence. I envy people who happily never go anyway. No matter where I am, I am plotting our next trip. This restlessness is simultaneously tiring and exhilarating.
When Taylor was in Budapest, I noticed how Irish her complexion has become. Her hair is auburn, streaked with red highlights that are more and more pronounced with age. I commented on this, “Taylor, do you realize how Irish you look?” “I know mom, and my eyes are green.”
I honestly never noticed that. I just assumed all our kids had blue eyes like Pat. “Taylor, my eyes are green, too. So were grandpa’s.”
I guess that’s the way it works. Somethings are genetic. Other aspects of our personality come from so core within us, they might as well be. I am my father’s daughter and Taylor is mine. We all have to accept those things we can not change. This is the gift, and the curse, I inherited from my dad. And like all gifts (and curses) I have passed it to my daughter.
Taylor, safe travels!