Coming Home by Paige Parker
Coming home was hard.
As soon as my feet crossed the doorway after three years of driving around the world – think 1,101 days, 116 countries, Guinness World Record – I felt compelled to make sense of it all. I mean, I’d had experiences like no one else in the world.
For me, that meant to write. Make it permanent. Yet for months after the journey, nothing flowed. I typed only to backspace and delete. I took long walks, reacquainting myself with the old neighbourhood in NYC. I did yoga almost every day.
As I attempted to bring closure to our time on the road, I understood that anticipation, the aphrodisiac of travel, and remembrance, travel’s reward, had played crucial roles in my narrative, carrying me forward daily. Yet too infrequently were the times when I stood present in a moment. Travel involved either looking back on grand times or ahead to even better ones.
Then one terribly hot summer evening, with the window open in my office, a high-speed fan almost close enough to touch, I understood that writing would validate my discoveries of self and the world, ensuring these experiences and understandings would remain, never fading. The words poured on that August night.
My memoir, Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers, details how overland travel can be insanely trying, even maddening on the soul, mind – and worse on my relationship with Jim, who became my husband on our epic adventure. Travelling with my partner in a small car for three years was cray-zy, taxing, and an anchor on our love.
The line from the Pretenders' song – “It’s a thin line between love and hate” – was so apt for what we faced as a couple. Still, since we had no other option, we relied on one another, and our roughest times, heady and horrible, paled when compared to the moments when we cherished each other for what we were sharing.
We no longer needed to gaze at the other. We looked ahead, often together, separately as often.
While completing the first draft of my book, I became a mother. During the anticipation of the birth of my first child, a daughter, I was an urn, the keeper of a tremendously important gem. My body housed a kicking, poking, needy miracle.
I became more important than ever, offering life. As my belly expanded, I longed to sweep her away to the glorious mountain pass in Turkey near the Georgian border, where Jim and I had daydreamed of a child. I imagined she would learn Mandarin, then Spanish. I planned to take her to Calcutta. Together we would watch Perito Moreno Glacier crumble, and I dreamed of showing her Djenne’s mud mosque.
Knowing my daughter would be a part of my returns to places I had loved brought me immense satisfaction, coupled with the notion that one day, together, we would form new memories. I found pregnancy and imminent motherhood to be a privilege, and upon her arrival, my journey made complete sense.
I no longer needed validation: the significance of my adventure could be as simple as making me a better mother, daughter, wife and friend. The world had shaped me – and would shape my child. This was my reward. And hers.
And now as this book comes to print, the first daughter, Happy, is 15, with a 10-year-old sister, Bee. They know me as a “fun” Tiger Mom, embedded in a marvellously manic life in Singapore with scores of friends and causes that feed my soul.
When my girls read of my struggles and strengths, my frustrations and forthrightness, they will gain a glimpse into a passage of my life that will inspire them – and other readers, I hope – to go forth to the unknown, to fight what is wrong and to possess a curiosity and keenness to learn and explore independently.