I like to believe I was born in the perfect place, to the perfect parents at a perfect time for what I wanted to accomplish in this life. But I was restless. From that 2:00 o’clock hour on a scorching August afternoon in Northwestern Arizona when 8.3 pound me was pulled out of a 100 pound young Norma Jean, I dreamed of being somewhere else. Anywhere. Anytime. And I was in a hurry to get there.
I didn’t appear in this world with travelin’ shoes, just the lifelong urge to find some that actually fit. One early day my long, even then, feet carried three year old me out the front door and down the unpaved street. I made it several dusty, hot blocks to the first sidewalk of downtown Kingman before a pickup truck pulled up beside me.
“Where are you going, Melinda?”
I looked straight ahead and kept walking. Faster now as I was about to pass the slouchy wood building with sagging screen doors opening on the street, a creepy place where funny old men “flopped” and little girls must beware.
The pickup stopped, blocking my escape. “Melinda,” the driver repeated, climbing out of the cab, “where’s your mother?”
Blistering wind whirled dust around me in a miniature tornado. My eyes stung as I squinted at my options: floppy old men lurking on my left and right in front of me, Mrs. Oswalt, a tall mother in a cotton dress whipping around her long legs who confined her little boy in the truck where she intended to capture me.
She took my sweaty little paw and bent eye level with me. “Where are you going, honey?”
I gave up and announced, “I’m going to the Corky Pig!” I let her lead me to the pickup.
She stopped and looked down at me with a frown. “But that’s way up on Hilltop. A couple of miles from here.” She continued to mutter this refrain the whole ride home as if to make an impression upon me of the impossibility of my quest. When my mother answered the door, Mrs. Oswalt pushed me forward, releasing my hand, and repeated this horror story to her.
As long as my mother lived, when we talked about my congenital wanderlust, she would protest how she hadn’t even realized I had left my room to walk to the Corky Pig, a hole-in-the-wall barbeque place miles away from our little house. They’d taken me there one time. “And it wasn’t that good,” Mom would always laugh.
But as the Mmmmmmelinda song goes: When a girl’s born restless and has a taste for adventure, she’ll put on her big boots that are made for walkin’. That’s just what she’ll do and walk all over—for barbeque. Or to the Dairy Queen with a penny, but that’s another sunny tale.