Why I wonder and wander…

While applying for law school, my application required a personal statement about why I wanted a law degree. I no longer have a copy, well maybe I do, but we’re talking pre-cloud days here and I no longer own a computer that reads a floppy disk. Why I still have a draw full of floppy disks is a whole other discussion, but as I recall I mentioned something along these lines.

I grew up the daughter of elementary school teachers. My father was the first in his family to earn a college degree via the Marines and the G.I. Bill. The Marines and the University of Rhode Island forever changed my father and would go on to shape my world and my choices. As I saw it there were two types of people, “my world people” and “the world” people. My Father was the later. The former were good people they just didn’t seem to worry about what was going on outside their circle of influence. They watched the local news, cheered for the Pawsox, went to their kids’ little league games, to fish fries at the Elks or dinners at the Grange and they’d give their brother of their neighbor the shirt off their back but they saw the world in terms closer to their own backyard.

“The world” people may do all of these but they also look beyond. They wonder and they worry about people, the environment, whether there will be clean water to drink, whether the Russians were going to attack, whether nuclear energy was the way to go, the gas crisis, the AIDS crisis, what we could do for the starving children in Ethiopia, why Imelda Marcos had all those shoes.

My Father was of the world. He read the paper everyday, both the morning and evening edition back then; he watched the local and the national news and 60 Minutes. He called me in to watch the shuttle launches, the resignation of President Nixon and other events he informed me were historic. He reminded me that it was my duty to vote, to make my voice heard, to care about what was going on in the world as well as what was happening in my world. My memories are of him with his head in a dictionary, an almanac or a volume of the encyclopedia. Soon an oral report on the location and economy of some remote country, the accomplishments of some prominent figure or the salient facts of an event or invention was filling our ears. If he was unfamiliar, unsure or just plain curious he investigated. Curiosity, one of the many gifts he gave me.

One of eleven children, he and his younger brother Don were the first to leave New England and to graduate from college. Prior to the Marines, Boston was the most exotic destination for a poor kid from Rocky Brook, a small close knit neighborhood of Peace Dale a village in a rural coastal Rhode Island town where food and friendships were more prevalent than the degrees issued right up the road at the state’s land grant college. Boot camp at Parris Island then Camp Pendelton in California before heading over to Okinawa, Japan. Fortunately the Korean War was ending; helping to return life to normal rather than to fighting. I credit this time with my Dad’s willingness and desire to travel even though the life he had chosen as a local civil servant did not afford the salary to plan lavish trips. The travels of my youth were to see people or history, not to relax. In 1972, he and my mother were able to travel to Germany to see a URI exhibition game and my father became German. He loved German food, German beer, he came home with a German hat and a beer stein and above all a desperate desire to share this experience with my brother and me.

After 10 years of saving and planning we flew into Karlsruhe, Germany. As a 16 year old, I was less than appreciative of being “dragged” away from my friends and life on the beach to travel with my parents and younger bother. Fortunately I kept a journal on this trip. Based on my entries it is clear that I presented as an ungrateful brat, however, somewhere around day five I indicate that “I am actually enjoying myself, but I am not going to let anyone know.” Although it was many years before I could consider myself an adventurer, I credit this trip with my love for travel. In my 20s I proclaimed my love of travel in a group, a close friend leaned over and whispered, “but you don’t go anywhere.” Luckily I have been able to change that.

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