Columns

2012.01.04 No, she's more like me

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

My wife and I have been fighting over the soul of our youngest daughter, Maddie. Colleen claims there’s more of her in Maddie’s recent life; I know that it’s much more of me.

Maddie has branched out in life since leaving high school here. She’s gone in directions we never would have expected. I watch them with great amusement and I see glimpses of myself in her actions.

Wait a minute! says Colleen. She sees the connections with her life.

For me, I think it started with Maddie’s summer of 2009 when she decided to earn some science credits in Wyoming. She took a geology class in the Rockies, near the Grand Tetons. Colleen doesn’t give a darn about geology, but for me, that’s important stuff.

Hold on. Colleen is reciting the kinds of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic. She’s claiming that earth science was her favorite class in junior high. Maybe so, but she’s never read John McPhee’s “Annals of a Former World.” I even own the book.

Maddie’s summer away from home reminded me of when I escaped Morenci and went north to work as a dishwasher in Bay View north of Petoskey.

Maddie returned to the geology camp this past summer to work for a few weeks and she even washed some dishes.

Colleen will talk about the summers she went north from New York City to work on farms. That’s true, but it was high school. She gets some points for that connection, but not quite as many as I earn. Maddie was still a home-body in high school.

Maddie made some friends at the camp that she still has strong connections with and that’s what happened to me up north. Some life-long friends came from my dishwashing days. I don’t think Colleen has ever visited her farm associates.

All three of us can meet in a common space on this point: We all earned somewhat worthless college degrees. I was a psychology major. Colleen went with an multidisciplinary social science major. Maddie has a bachelor’s in non-science based environmental studies.

You can see where this got her parents, for better or for worse. As someone once pointed out, between the newspaper and the library, we’ve cornered the market on the flow of information in this city.

Colleen can’t match this one. For additional science credits, Maddie signed up for a course in coastal studies. It was mostly six weeks of snorkeling off the coast of Cambodia and Thailand. Toughest 12 credits she ever earned.

Come to think of it, I can’t match that one, either. However, it’s her most recent venture where I claim kinship. She finished college, worked over the summer, and embarked on her West Coast Tour. She just went away for a few weeks, to parts sort of unknown. In my mind, this equates to the summer of 1975 when I set off for parts unknown on a bicycle.

Things have changed since then. We probably had contact with Maddie every day of her travels. And my poor parents? I think I called home twice that summer. There were no cell phones then. I was mostly in Canada and long-distance phone calls were expensive.

Maddie’s next experience involves a one-way ticket to New Zealand. It’s not that she plans to stay; she just doesn’t have a firm return date. 

She’s going to see the country through the WWOOF program. You work on an organic farm for a couple of weeks, then perhaps move on to another. Free room and board in exchange for your labor. 

Colleen is making the claim here because of her two farm summers. Sure, but I did that, too, only it was all in my head. When I wanted to do the rural hippie thing, I couldn’t leave my job, so I just read about it and lived it in my imagination.

Among our many similarities, I’ve thought all along that I have one experience that Colleen never had and Maddie will never get: hitchhiking. Maddie scared us well enough by arranging rides down the West Coast via Craig’s List, but I know I have her topped with my extensive hitchhiking.

Then came an e-mail from her. Friendly New Zealand is a great place to hitchhike. She’s got me there; I’m never going to be able to match that girl. Colleen and I can just call a truce and fret about the next few months together.

My summer of bicycling through Canada? My many days of standing alongside the road? Sorry about that, Mom and Day. I think it’s time for some parental payback.

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