Thursday, 12 August 2010

Autobiographical Travel - Part I

It is sometimes hard for me to fathom the difference between the way I live now and the way I grew up.   Some things haven't changed much at all, but one of the main differences in my life then and now is travel.

I grew up in a pleasant enough suburb of Oklahoma City called The Village. It may not be as nice now, but it was a great place to grow up, with lots of kids on the block to play with and lots of stay at home Mom's offering homemade cookies. I wonder sometimes if the fact that the street names around me, such as Oxford, Carlisle, Sheffield and Essex didn’t determine in some odd fashion that I would eventually live in England. Mom and Daddy were self-employed portrait photographers and, though they did good work which is still displayed all over the posh areas of Oklahoma City, money was always tight and we never took a vacation and went somewhere else. Not once. 

Grandma and Grandpa would go up North to Minneapolis and such to visit family, but not Daddy. Mom had family in Shreveport, Louisiana, but we never went there either. The closest they came to a vacation when I was growing up was a day at the lake fishing or going to a drive-in movie; either of these activities involved a basket of home fried chicken and a six-pack of Schlitz beer.

There was a family friend who lived in Shawnee, Oklahoma (2000 population 28,692), about 50 miles away.  Jack and his wife Liz (with beautiful waist length black hair) had no children and I would sometimes get to spend a day out at their house playing with the endless supply of puppies. I had a great uncle Paul, who lived in Shawnee as well, and I remember visiting him once. I still have an uncle, John, who lives in Shawnee, funny enough. 

My best friend’s grandmother lived in Thomas, OK (2000 population 1,238; about 100 miles NW) and I would go along and get to sleep in a feather bed and ride 

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a borrowed bike up and down the 3-4 main streets of the town. That was the first time I ever saw anyone keep a refrigerator on their back porch.

It was about 1968, I was 12, the first time I ever left Oklahoma. My Aunt Rita took me with her to a friend’s wedding in Dallas. I still remember that she was driving a convertible; she always had great cars. That one was a Camaro, I think. As a teenager I remember going with friends of my Dad on holiday to Devil’s Den, Arkansas, to look after their children.   (Some folks here in England seem to think that 'Arkansas' is pronounced R-Kansas; maybe they think it's next to Kansas as well, like North & South Carolina, I don't know.  To be fair, though, I wouldn't swear even now that I pronounce all the names over here correctly).  I occasionally managed other trips with friends, like over the border into Texas or even once to Denver, Colorado.  We had a convoy of cars driving all night to get there for a day and all night to get home. It was an insane thing to do.

At 18, I took a Greyhound bus to see a boyfriend in the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. That Greyhound bus trip was a cultural experience if there ever was one and deserves its own post.  A year later I flew for the first time, to see the same guy at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  We drove on East  and I had my first sight of an ocean, the endless grey Atlantic. 

I still remember the outfit that Mom ‘made’ me wear to fly. It was a pale blue knit skirt and jacket with navy suede trim and the open toed sling backed heels were also navy suede. She was right, it was appropriate to dress up and I’d have embarrassed myself otherwise. The rest of my life then I lived in holey jeans and peasant blouses, so it was rather strange assuming this alternate identity and, considering how people dress to go on airplanes these days, I feel quite ancient remembering it.  

I broke up with that young man a couple of years later.  For quite a while I considered him to have been ‘the love of my life’, but it dawned on me not long ago that this is, in fact, Bill.

To be continued...

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