My daughter came over today to help me pack up my apartment, and I couldn’t stop staring at her. There’s a huge part of my life in her bright green eyes and long, slender hands, neither of which I passed down to her. Those eyes watched mine when I held her during infancy – they filled with tears on the first day of kindergarten – they sparkled with pride during open houses and math contests. My hands were the first she ever held. How many times did I watch her hands as she learned to hold a pencil, throw a softball, or put on mascara?
Today, I gave Elisabeth back her very first journal, in which she wrote loving tributes to unicorns, hamsters, and me. Well, except for the time we went to Circus-Circus. Apparently, I was a lot of fun that day — until I wasn’t. “When we got home, mom was a GROUCH! So I went to my room because she was very unpleasent.” Twenty years have passed, and I don’t remember that day at all, and she probably doesn’t either, but somehow I wish I could take it back. I prefer the time she was asked to write about her favorite hero in fourth grade and she wrote about me. What does your hero do, the teacher’s handout asked. “She takes bubbles baths and makes spaghetti,” my daughter answered.
At the time, I was managing the advertising of a major hotel-casino. One of the perks was free entertainment and dining, and I often took Elisabeth to see acts like David Copperfield, or to tennis matches, or to five-star restaurants. She wasn’t impressed with any of that as much as she was with bubbles and homemade meatballs.
Now she’s a woman, and sometimes it’s hard for me to grasp that. Sometimes it just hits me that — oh my God — I helped make a grown-up human being! I look at Elisabeth, and she looks so beautiful and complete, and so full of young energy, that it aches.
“You’re not going to cry, are you,” she asks whenever she sees that my heart has become overfull and my eyes have gotten misty.
“Of course not,” I always reply. But then, of course, I do.
I met Connie Burke on Twitter. She’s a social media manager for GM, and she’s as passionate about her job as I am about writing. She’s also the proud mother of two grown people. I approached GM because I knew from the blogosphere that they had done a lot to assist various networking events for women. Remarkably, when I explained my idea about embarking on a journey to gather stories about life in America today, Connie not only immediately understood its purpose, and how GM could play an important part in it, she understood me. She also understood women like Veronica, who said, “Joining you on this trip is a chance for all of us to wake up, to dream, to find our America, and to know that yes, we are strong enough, smart enough, brave enough to change.” Or Deb, who said, “I’m following you, step by step. As a 40-something with a sophomore in high school, I know well those feelings, and a hunger for a journey.” Or Laura: “You give me hope that my life as both middle-aged woman and mom can continue to grow and change and inspire.”
Having read my work, Connie also knew that I had been a loyal Ford driver for most of my adult life. “I want to change that,” she said bluntly. “I want you to experience our products, because I think once you do, you’re going to be very impressed.” From that statement, an idea was born – my journey will include test-driving as many makes and models of GMC/Chevy cars, trucks, and SUV’s as possible in the course of my year on the road. You all know how much I love to drive and how attached I get to my vehicles, so this will be very exciting for me. Will I become a GMC/Chevy convert? I don’t know. Connie made it clear that GM wants only my honest opinions about the vehicles I drive, and I wouldn’t be comfortable offering anything less, so this will an adventure within an adventure. A Storied Journey as well as A Test Drive Across the USA.
My adventure starts Monday with a GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid. I’ve never driven a hybrid before, and am curious how it will perform during the first leg of my journey, which includes a brief stop in Iowa, before heading to New Mexico, then Arizona. I have some wonderful people lined up to interview, and can hardly wait to begin!
My new website, Finding My America, is also launching on Monday. This site will automatically redirect to the new space, but I will have links available for those who’d like to read the archives here. I don’t think you’ll want to, though: the best stories are yet to come, and I don’t mean that in a clichéd, slogan-y kind of way. I plan on writing stories that matter – that have meaning to others – and that, when they’re put together as a whole, will really tell the story of life in America in a fresh way.
Bubbles and meatballs, my daughter once said. Today, for me, it’s not about a job, either. It’s much more personal. It’s about taking my passion for writing to the road, meeting people whose stories have not yet been told, and creating new ones of my own. It’s about connecting, evolving, changing, and blazing new trails.
All starting Monday! My bags are packed, my apartment is nearly empty, and that mist in my eyes? It’s not from sentiment, but pure happiness.