March 24, '97
My great idea is to write to you day-by-day so you can get a real feel for all the terrific events you’ve left behind. That way when you write the screenplay about your trip you’ll be able to tell the story from all angles. The only thing about the screenplay is that there has to be some real drama—some heroic rescue—and I’m not real happy about that, so maybe we’ll have to just make something up at the end…
So. Yesterday you left. Never did a person have a greater need to get out of her house. Never did a family have a greater need to be temporarily rid of a member. You were READY to go. In your room yesterday afternoon, I looked at you and Jake and Dad sitting on your bed, looking so woebegone at the thought of separation, and I tried to store the picture in my mind. We are a very close family. A lot of the time we lose track of that, but just then I could see it. Our lives are linked together and so are our spirits. But sometimes we need to be apart.
So much for writing every day. Right now I’m grabbing fifteen minutes before Sue finishes babysitting. Daddy and I have been trying to figure out what the weather is like by you and what you’ve decided to do if it's really going to snow. Today is the day of the potential blizzard. I refuse to accept this. All winter I wanted snow, but now all I want is warmth!
April 2, Wednesday
You know, I think I should get an award for being a tolerant mother. All you had to worry about was telling Dad and me that you were planning this trip—and we were mostly understanding and supportive. I can just imagine what it would have been like if, at seventeen, I had told my father and mother that I was planning to ride my bike solo across the country. My father would have flipped out. My aunts would have formed a human chain to prevent me from leaving the house. And my mother would have cried and cried.
So you just had to tell Dad and me…but I had to tell my mother. As you know, my sister advised me at the beginning to lie and say that you were traveling with a group that has adult supervisors. She was afraid Grandma couldn’t handle it. So I lied, but it’s been hard to keep up that lie and it meant lying to my aunts and uncles. And then two nights ago Aunt Sheryl calls and says,
“Ruthie, I’m afraid I’m going to let something slip and tell Ma that Sara’s traveling alone.”
That’s just great. She’s the one who tells me to fudge the truth, and now she’s afraid she’ll let something slip…
So I called Grandma and told her that you’re traveling alone—in a sense, I think I needed to feel my own strength about the rightness of your journey and then I was strong enough to tell my mother. She took it with aplomb. She said, “Don’t try to protect me from what’s going on,” and said that, because I'm not nervous, SHE isn’t THAT nervous. She’s actually pretty spunky, my mother. Now you can call her.
April 9, Wednesday (You arrive in Charlottesville)
I started to cry today when I told Sarah and Bobbi about you having to go the bathroom and that woman at the convenience store not letting you. And then that other woman rescued you and took you home with her to use hers—that was so nice. I hate that peeing legally in America is such an ordeal.
Those are the things that I worry about—the little things that could get you down. Everyone is so worried about you being raped; nobody worries that you won’t be able to go to the bathroom.
Everyone asks about you. Julie the dental assistant told me that she thinks about you every day. People always want to know how you are. Sherrie at the food co-op keeps saying she wishes she went with you. I wonder what would have happened at the convenience store if you had been with a friend or two or three. Would the woman have let you use the bathroom? Would the other woman have been likely to stop her car for you?…
From April, age 11
To the bestest, wonderfulest, most fantasticulist sister in the whole wide universe!
April 9, ‘97
The house is empty without you. I read Loren the letter you wrote to him. Twin Oaks Community sounds really neat! I want to go there.
Everyone’s been asking about you, of course. I wish I was always the topic of conversation! Just joking.
April 10, Thursday 7:45P.M.
I keep dreaming that you’re back for some reason. I know you’re gone, but I don’t—no, can’t—see you riding a bike across the country. I just can’t imagine it. I can say you are, but part of myself says it isn’t real.
Does the Wilson family have kids?
I could (not that I would) steal a can of beer from the basement and no one would notice! There is so much left from Dad’s birthday party.
This has to be short because I gotta go do dishes. It’s 8:31P.M. (and 31 seconds, to be exact) and I haven’t touched a single dish but mine.
Life goes on as usual without you.
I miss you.
Love, Peace and bicycles,