The Women of The Traveling Philosopher
"Momma's boy." Those were often the words directed toward me from other kids on the playground as a child, often followed by a shove on the shoulder and other names, some of which included Bucket Head and Marshmallow Man. Let's just say that my head was somewhat disproportionate to the rest of my body as a child and I had curves in all the wrong places. As much as I'd tried to shrug that "Momma's boy" aura by trying to engage in a game of tackle football or help my dad around the house doing "manly chores", there was a certain sense of pride to it. It was somewhat common talk between family and friends that I had three moms growing up, one being my birth mother, and the other two being my much older sisters, since I was something of an "accident", or "special blessing", as it was typically referred to in the Spellman household.
The fact of the matter was that deep inside, I really was not only a momma's boy, but damn proud of it. And I still am. The earliest memories I have of my mom and two sisters revolve around travel. One of my earliest childhood memories comes from the first trip I actually remember, taking place when I was four. It was a road trip our entire family took from Central North Carolina up to Washington, D.C., taking something of a historical tour of our nation's capital, being that my father was a history teacher. It was just a few months later that the younger of my two sisters walked me onto an airplane for the first time, taking me into the cockpit, where the pilot gave me a Delta model plane, one that I still have today. Who needed a candy shop, when there were airplanes. In no time we were halfway across the country, where my oldest sister picked us up for a week gallivanting around Dallas, Texas.
"The Carolina Panthers just aren't worth a darn this year." I chuckled at that statement from my mom last December, similarly to how I'm chuckling to myself about it now, but with tears welling up in my eyes. Once again travel had brought us together, this time to Atlanta, Georgia, as I had made an impromptu trip from Seattle and my mom from North Carolina to spend a few days with my sister and her family. We made talk about what was happening in each of our towns, me Seattle, and her Graham, and like I did when I was young, I'd explain calls during the Panthers/Eagles game that she didn't quite understand. It was a nostalgic moment, reminding me of Sunday afternoons as a kid, when we'd all sit around the TV after church and a big Sunday dinner, something of our family tradition. But that would be the last time that travel would bring us together, as just days later I got the call saying that my mom had unexpectedly passed away.
My inspiration and insatiable desire to travel comes from that of my mom and two sisters. While some people go through life not knowing what it is to travel, I've gone through life not knowing what it'd be like to not travel. It was something my mom and sisters imparted to me at an early age - that to travel the world is to know yourself, each other, and the world around you. While some families play sports together and others have careers together and still others volunteer together, our family traveled together. It was as much a part of my life as going to school. If my father wasn't a teacher, onlookers might would say it was even more important than school, being that my family wasn't above taking me out of school a couple hours (Or Days) early to take a trip. For me, to not travel, is to not live.
There was a period of my life in my mid-twenties that was absent of travel and the period of my life that felt the most lifeless. When my life hit the fan in my mid-20s, my sisters didn't swoop in to correct it or tell me what I should do. They gave me room and let me be, I think knowing that being the wanderers that we all are, that I would find my way again and life would course-correct itself. And it did and so much more. For that and for the sense of travel they imparted to me, I feel forever indebted to my sisters. I try to live what I think is an inspiring life, but it's my sisters who I take my inspiration from. The oldest was the first true writer in our family, having been writing for years, even publishing her first book recently, Dry Souls, and has spent more time living abroad than I have. The other has traveled more than anyone I know, having flown for the same airline for over 20 years, all the while juggling three kids. This is my family. This is the women of The Traveling Philosopher. These are my inspiration.
Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. - C.S. Lewis
While integrity, as C.S. Lewis defines it, is what you do when no one is watching, someone was clearly watching my mom. My eyes welled up with tears, yet immense pride, when person after person stood up at my mother's funeral a couple months ago to share about how my mom touched their life. The pastor said he had never seen such a response like that in 20 years of officiating funerals. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't devastated when I got the call on December 6 about my mom's passing, but as I sat there listening to people's testimony of my mom's life, I knew what I had to do. The best way I could remember my mom was by continuing to live my life the way that she had lived hers and told her children to live theirs - that is to make the very best of every moment, whether good or bad.
Today is International Women's Day. It's also the week of what would have been my mom's 70th birthday. Today I honor the women in my life, those who really made The Traveling Philosopher even possible, my mom and two sisters. I recently wrote openly for the first time here about dating. In a sentence, I may meet and date a woman who challenges my quality of life and love affair with travel, but to do so, would be to challenge the very essence of who I am, and what my family imparted to me at an early age. I think such a woman would be one worth letting my guard down for and not just being a serial first and second dater, but undertaking something of a pursuit. To my sisters, thank you for living such a lofty life that teaches me what's to be admired in a woman and giving me reason to try to be a better man.