Thursday, June 13, 2013

Old Faithful

A lot of people have asked what my daughter is doing now that she’s graduated from college. Good question.

The same thing she’s done every summer for the past 4 years: She’s at Yellowstone National Park working. These same people are equally fascinated by this information, imagining, no doubt, that she is leading Ranger talks, keeping the wolves at bay, recovering stolen pic-a-nic baskets from Yogi Bear and Bobo. They are a lot less thrilled when I explain that she’s doing seasonal work, for example changing beds, cleaning cabins, clearing hair out of drains.

What I sometimes get around to telling them is that I did this same work when I worked in the Park over 30 years ago.

My sister got a job at Yellowstone and then told me to come on out. I was in a bad space mentally and spiritually and was looking to find myself. Nature can do that. Except I was way too busy just working and doing the job I was hired to do. Don’t get me wrong, I did an awful lot of hiking too on my days off. I worked at Yellowstone for a total of 2 seasons.

I especially remember one summer where I met 2 kids, a guy and a girl, from Athens, Georgia. I always liked to reply that I was from Athens too. Athens, Ohio. Actually I went to school in Athens (they were students also) but was from Centerville. So were they! Centerville, Georgia.

What I also remember about the girl (whom I’m forgetting her name) is that she would call her mother every day. I found that fascinating. While away at college for more years than I’d like to admit, I rarely called my mom. Long distance phone calls were reserved for important conversations—not to catch up. This, even though my parents were fairly well-off. So I never acquired the talent of making small talk on the phone. I use it like a tool. Too many times I’ve abruptly cut people off with an “okay, talk to you later.”

I was intrigued that someone would want to call their mother every day. And, in a way, I was sort of jealous. I wondered what a relationship where you called your mother every day was like.

After hearing about the girl calling her mother I got the idea I’d like to call my mom. Yellowstone, though not the end of the world, is also sketchy in terms of cell service. Back when I was in the Park I had to use the pay phone from a bank of them near Old Faithful Lodge.

“What’s wrong?

“Nothing,” I retorted defensively.

“Then why are you calling?”

I found it difficult trying to tell her I just wanted to hear her voice. So after the first couple of times of worrying her by phoning in the middle of the day, I stopped.

This year Grace is at my old stomping grounds. She’s been assigned to Old Faithful. And, every day she calls me as she’s crossing the parking lot (apparently Old Faithful is a cell phone hot spot!). She’ll call me up to tell me the geyser is going off or that she has 10 check-outs. I can hear the sound of the wind whipping around her, humming through the phone lines. Just like when I was there ages ago.

What I don’t tell my friends is that unlike me or as opposed to my mom, I’ve got a daughter who calls me every day. And, I love it.

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