I’m lying in my bed in Pacific Grove wondering what next week’s journey to Oregon will bring. Before I blow out the candle flickering on my nightstand I breathe deeply, trying to calm the anticipation I feel. This journey promises to be unique on many levels—a combination of people, places, and events that will encompass the whole spectrum of my life, and include all five influences that formed my personality over the past 68 years. When I mentioned my elaborate plan for writing my memoirs for my grandchildren, a psychologist friend said New York Times’ journalist David Brooks had just written that book, using the latest research in the social sciences, including the human genome project, neuroscience, and biopsychology. I bought his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, to learn how these five magic markers influence the making of my personality. I’ve set up this trip to aid in my search.
- DNA— How am I like my ancestors? What traits, tendencies, and skills did I inherit from the preacher, the physician, the slave-owner, and my farmer father; from the teacher, the nurse, the socialite, and my homemaker mother? I’ll be sharing ancestor photos and information with cousin June in Stockton, then meeting a stranger in Corvallis who used a DNA swab to find me and who raises the question of my Hamilton heritage.
- My family of origin—How has growing up with each of my siblings influenced my personality? What did I get from our bi-polar Daddy and our sweet Mama? I’ll be attending a gathering in Milwaukie with my four remaining siblings.
- The cultures I’ve lived in—How have my experiences in the different places I lived in my first 18 years influenced my life choices? I’ll revisit Molalla, still home to the Buckaroos Rodeo, a farm town of 3,000 where we landed after what we wryly refer to as the “Hamilton Trek,” a three-year period in which we moved ten times.
- Education—I’ll be attending my 50th Molalla Union High School reunion at a classmate’s forest home on the Molalla River.
- Reflection—I’m booked for three days of silence at A Quiet Place.com, a retreat in the parental farmhouse of Linda Olsen my best friend at MUHS.
This will be my first trip in my newly acquired Ford E150 conversion van, outfitted like my own home in miniature: cushy bed with sateen comforter and plush pillows, kitchen-in-a-box with propane stove on the top, and of course the requisite porta-potty, disguised as extra seating by a crocheted cozy from niece Kathy. I’ll be camping in state parks by myself for six nights.
Next post from the road: SKELETONS/DNA MARKERS IN THE CLOSET