The booth that sets up next to Dad’s peanut wagon every weekend at the flea market is run by a little old lady. I don’t think she is quite my parents’ age but I suspect that she is in her mid to late sixties. She speaks with an accent that I cannot place. Dutch? Swedish? I’m not sure but definitely somewhere north Europe. She sells tools like rakes and axes and other useful things like socks. She has a kind face and she and Dad look out for each other at the flea market. The flea market can be a place to be suspicious of. It is similar to walking the midway of a state fair but replace the noise with the wind and the lights with dust.
I picked out a new rake and told Dad that I needed this and that’s when the woman came around the corner. She didn’t realize that Mom and I were with Dad at first, but she soon recognized Mom and they hugged a hello. Dad introduced me: “this is my baby” and she looked me over and said “You know? I’ve never met any of the girls before.” I guess Randy finds his way to the flea market more often than Janell. My mother excitedly told the woman that we were planning a trip to Ireland and that she just got her first passport. The woman replied “I never made it over to Ireland, but my friend and I hitchhiked our way to Paris once.” She then told us the story of when she had just turned 18 and she and her friend decided to go to Paris. Boarder patrol almost didn’t let her through because she was so young, but they saw that she had just turned 18 and let her go. They spent a week in a friend’s flat in Paris, having a marvelous time.
I am envious of her tale. How exciting and crazy it must have been to be hitchhiking across Europe then. What would it have been like to be that carefree? I am envious because sewing my own wild oats consisted of a few drunken evenings at the local bar or partying until dawn, dancing the Macarena, at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel. And I wonder if given the chance at that age, if I would have been as bold or brave. Would I have taken that leap and thrown caution to the wind? I was always so responsible, so good. The lesson of knowing when to leap and to be fearless took me longer to learn. I am still responsible and fundamentally good, but I know now that sometimes it’s OK to take risks. Things I didn’t know then or was to afraid of the consequences.
Dad paid the woman for my rake and we said our goodbyes. She made me promise to tell her all about our trip when we returned and that she hopes it will be grand. These are my hopes as well.