“You have the soul of a gypsy”, my mother told me. I was eight years old, and I longed to be a hobo; to ride the rails with a bindle stick slung over my shoulder, the red bandana a symbol of my nomadic life. I’d grown weary of the sameness of home. I yearned for change and adventure. Hobos didn’t have many rules, it seemed, and every day would feel new.
I had a red bandana. And I could find a stick.
I find one that feels strong and rough against my skin. In the kitchen, I’m loading my bandana with crackers and grapes and Fruit Loops. I announce to my mom, “I’m packing. I’m going to be a hobo”. Her face changes, like she’s thinking. “Okay”, she says. “But hobos make their own way, honey. You’ll have to find your own food.”
She’s right. It’s time to make my own way. There’s not much left to carry, as I walk down the road. It’s hot, and I’m not sure which way to go. I walk. Ten minutes. Fifteen. I’m a little scared. I lean up against a boulder, and slide down to sit. I pull my knees to my chest and put my head down to cry.
I felt my mom before I saw her. She slid down the boulder next to me. Without looking up, I leaned in, and felt the skin of her shoulder against mine. I heard her soft voice. “No matter how far you go, love, I’ll always be here.” Eventually we walked, hand in hand, toward home.
My mom taught me a lot about friendship that day. Like a safety net beneath an aerialist, my friends have remained a safe distance away, waiting to catch me when I fall. And I wait to catch them.