In Singapore in the early 1990s.
I was raised by a pirate.
A Frenchman running from the law sold him his vessel, and together we sailed out of Port Royal – the city so wicked it sank into the Caribbean Sea – and out into open waters to circle Dead Man’s Key.
The boat would pitch on the choppy waters, and at high speed it would tip and lean until one side was high above the water, causing my mother to grip the boat white knuckled with one hand while clutching my pudgy infant sister with the other. My mother does not care for the water – much less the open sea.
“Isn’t this fun?” the pirate would grin at me gleefully.
I was raised by a Boy Scout.
His delight on open water was nearly matched by his zest for craggy peaks. He loves to pack his beer precisely and park his jeep at a trailhead to set off wandering in the woods – the farther from civilization the better – especially if a lottery system prevents all but the most intensely committed from accessing a particular wilderness area.
Gathering firewood, pitching a tent, brushing your teeth with creek water and drinking coffee around the campfire – these are a few of his favorite things.
I was raised by an astronomer.
He trained a powerful telescope on Haley’s Comet in 1986, making grand plans and cajoling my nine year old self and his visiting septuagenarian mother and aunt out onto an immense concrete patio overlooking Kingston Harbor.
In the wee, darkest hours of the morning we snickered like errant schoolchildren and watched the bright, blazing tail of the comet cutting its path through our solar system – once every 75 years. The astronomer said that only I might live to see it again.
Years later on clear summer nights in the Pacific Northwest, he and I would sit together on the roof high above the confluence of the mighty Columbia and Wenatchee rivers in the valley below and he would doggedly quiz me on the names of the constellations splayed out above our heads.
And on many summer nights one camping trips in the Cascade Mountains planned carefully to coincide with meteor showers, we’d lay flat on our backs with only our noses protruding into the chilly night air as the Perseids rained down before our eyes.
I was raised by a tinkerer.
I was raised by an outdoorsman.
He took mountaineering classes and gamely signed up for wilderness first aid certification courses with me, where we would merrily bandage massive wounds together and practice rigging a travois to carry one another – if injured – back to civilization.
Now in his 70s himself, he set off a few months ago to drive across the United States, meet an old friend (probably a pirate) to sail together through the San Juan Islands toward Desolation Sound in British Columbia and then drive back to Arkansas. Of course, he made a pit stop to solo hike in Yellowstone for several days, finally sending a single missive to let us know he’d returned to the land of the living (and cell phone signals).
I was raised by an adventurer.
I am an adventurer.