Well, we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re known
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out. — "Road to Nowhere," Talking Heads
In retrospect, I probably should have known a con was afoot. Dad was a master conman to us kids, not the evil, back alley type but more of the “I know how to sell my kids something” type. Nothing ever malicious — just a good father knowing what buttons to push to rally his little troops into action.
Sitting there around the 1970s-era dinner table in our entirely too small for our family military housing home with all five of us kids — aged seven down to Kara, the baby — Dad sold us a story.
“How’d you guys like to live like the Swiss Family Robinson?” Dad asked. This was especially important to Dad’s pitch because the Sunday night Disney movie coming up was Swiss Family Robinson and Patrick and I were completely lost in the notion of getting stranded on a deserted island, having to fend for ourselves.
What little TV we were allowed to watch was blasted with commercials for the movie. Images of swinging through vines, riding ostriches and other adventures were the source of mine and Patrick’s playtime for hours. So of course, we bit.
“Wow, Daddy, what do you mean?!” I asked, my fat, excited little body leaning in closer to my father over a plate of spaghetti.
“Well, your Mom and I’ve been thinking about buying a house out in the woods and it’s going to be a lot like the Swiss Family Robinson,” my Dad replied.
Patrick and I always sat next to each other at the dinner table and our eyes nearly exploded out of our heads with the ideas and possibilities that immediately filled our little brains.
What Dad didn’t say was it was going to be hard, it was some 40 miles out of town, it still used a wood stove for heat, and, well … it was certainly going to be an adventure.
From that night at dinner everything seemed to move both at lightening speed and at a snail's pace.
The wait to get into the house was agonizingly slow for my young brain, I didn’t understand the whole house-buying timeline and I was aching to get out there and ride an ostrich, or more accurately, a moose or a bear (you can ride grizzlies, right?).
Flipping that coin, days at school were on turbo drive as my friends and I talked about my new adventure just waiting in the wings. I would daydream at school and be brought back to the tasks at hand with a sharp reprimand from my very proper second grade teacher Mrs. Ernst. During creative writing I would sketch out elaborate details of the fun Patrick and I were going to have just as soon as we got to our new house.
One brisk fall day, Mom and Dad packed everyone into the back of the wood-paneled Jeep Cherokee my parents drove. They didn’t tell us where we were going; they never did. Patrick and I first saw The Empire Strikes Back under the pretense we were off to see Mary Poppins.
Mile after mile ticked off as Patrick and I sat in the back picking on each other. Well, truth be told, I picked on Patrick, being the oldest and all, and Patrick ratted me out – I’m told that’s what brothers do. Even with all that, Patrick and I were inseparable. Just 11 months apart in age, we were each other's best, and at times then and in times to come, only friend.
So on we drove, mile after mile down Chena Hot Springs Road, baby Kara crying in the back, Patrick and I causing all sorts of hell for my parents … and then they finally turned off the main road.
Up a monstrous dirt road hill the Jeep climbed. Dense growth of lush green trees with white bark and evergreens shrouded the road. Peering into the forest, mine and Patrick’s expectations skyrocketed. Up the hill, around a curve, back down the hill, around another sweeping curve to the left.
“We’re just about there my!” my Mom called.
We turned to the left, on the first driveway after the curve (this would be forever how we told people to get to our house), and entered a long driveway. Old growth trees cascading to the right and left formed an umbrella. And then we cleared and we were home.