For awhile, it was a Disney princess. That's what my daughter wanted to be when she grew up. I can understand why: You get to wear pretty dresses. You'd get gentlemen callers. And, oh yeah, you'd pretty much get to live at Disneyland.
“I wouldn't even need to stay in the castle,” she said. “I'd just live nearby.”
I took her to Disneyland when she was 6. It was an exciting travel adventure, to be sure. An airplane ride! A Pirates of Caribbean ride! A swimming pool at the hotel?! Gadzooks! It took much pushing and prodding to get her to Disneyland after she first glanced at the pool.
“Disneyland is right there!” I pleaded. You could see Space Mountain from our hotel balcony. “But, daddy ... THE POOL!”
I took her to Idaho a little while back. It was her longest car ride yet. We took stops (the Thorpe fruit stand, the petrified forest in Vantage, the wonders of Washtucna) on the way there and back. In Idaho, we got meet all the deer her aunt studies at Washington State University. One deer was named Grace, my daughter's name. They were quite taken with one another.
I took her to the ocean. It was in the middle of winter. It was cold. Pretty bitter, really, but it was such fun. The town was ours for the taking. No one else was there. The beach — ours. It was just us, the wind, the gulls wheeling in the sky, the cool sand, the rocks dashed upon with the endless crash of the waves. We walked as far as we could go on this old jetty. She sat there, at the end of it, by herself, just watching those waves, and the pelicans swooping away in the distance, and she said nothing for awhile. My little Buddha. She turned to me. “I love this place,” she said, finally.
I think it is this sense of place that she loves most about travel, the pastime that binds us so tightly together. The sense that she's a part of something larger than herself. She felt it first on Vashon as a baby when we'd go out into the woods, she and I, eating the wild blueberries, looking for owls in the trees.
She felt it in Olympia, where her grandparents live, when we went to the pond where the beaver lives and the salamanders are easy to catch.
That sense of place has been opened up wider now that she's a bit older. Her eyes are on the globe now, not just our state map. She wants to be a neighbor, not in our neighborhood, but to the world. She wants to go to Costa Rica (maybe in 2014?); she wants to go to Paris (maybe when she's 13?).
“When I grow up,” she says now, “I want to be a travel writer.”
She'll fulfill that dream of hers this year. This summer, I'm driving across the country with her. I'm going to write about our adventures in a book I hope to get published. A few agents are already interested. She's going to keep a journal, too, and I'll be using her text for my book. We're following “The Father Road.” The Father Road is the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway in America. It celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013, the same year I celebrate my 10th anniversary as my daughter's father.
“Can we go to Disneyland?” she asked about our Lincoln Highway trip.
“Not this trip, kiddo. But, how does the best trip you've ever had in your life sound?”
And so we pack, and we dream (some of us about hotel swimming pools), until we unpack and our dreams are realized.
Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer living in Fremont. He enjoys many things including losing to his daughter at most every board game ever created.