Mom and Dad,
I remember walking down the side of the highway in that July heat like it was yesterday. My 7-year-old legs were tired, but my 7-year-old spirit was being so carefully crafted. The gas gauge in our beloved wood-paneled station wagon was broken, so we were well acquainted with running out of gas on the side of the road. This time we were two miles from home, so my mom convinced the three of us kids to walk. She said, “It’s going to be more fun this way.” We all believed her.
I was raised by a mom who had the ability to smell adventure from miles away, and a dad who always encouraged our whimsy. Together, fun followed them around like a little duckling and they always invited it into the house. Though we weren’t a family with a lot of money, we were the richest family in the world when it came to having fun.
Our summers were filled with books read exclusively on the roof, imaginations gone wild, and a whole lot of raspberries. I personally spent a lot of time sketching designs for my dream treehouse. You know, important stuff.
Our winters were spent building sledding hills where there were definitely no sledding hills, eating home-made chicken noodle soup, and causing an overall ruckus. We are most proud, however, of our ability to wear snow pants in the house (instead of turning on the heat) in efforts to save money for our annual trip to the mountains.
Speaking of mountains, when I turned 16, I began convincing my friends that we should drive to the mountains on a whim. We did, many times, and my parents were always like, “Heck yeah, have fun ladies!”
***Important note: I watched my parents raise a puppy last year and my mom would just leave the little guy outside all by himself. When I asked her why she did that, she did not skip a beat when she replied, “I’m teaching him independence. Empowering him to be his own dog.” I realized, everything about my upbringing made sense.
When I was 19, my dad dropped me off in Montana, so that I could ride my bike to Wisconsin with a couple of friends. When he waved goodbye, he asked where we were sleeping that night. I quickly responded with, “I’m actually not sure,” as I rode off into the sunset.
My parents so gently handled and encouraged wonder and play in my soul at such a young age. Looking back, I see how important it was that they made time for street hockey and foot races and trips to the mountains. Though they were always the voice of encouragement for my wild ideas, they were also the teachers who taught me that plain things could be fun, that life itself was the adventure, and that the mundane could be epic too.
They encouraged adventure like they encouraged finishing broccoli at the dinner table, and maybe that’s why I learned to read whitewater like a book. But they also encouraged the adventure that is slow mornings. The simple conversation with neighbors. Drinking bad coffee. And doing the dishes while looking out the window.
I now live a 16-hour drive from my parents, but I’m only in the mountains because they encouraged me to go. They always encourage me to go. Together they helped me find my wings, and then they taught me to fly.