My mom left home at eighteen on the back of a Harley. That bike belonged to my dad and it took them all the way from the outskirts of Spokane to dad’s sleepy Oregon hometown. A year later, I showed up and they named me after mom’s favorite Fleetwood Mac song. Mom never talked much about her life on the reservation, but she would receive cards and letters from her sister. All I knew was that she grew up poor and had worked as a truck stop waitress. Dad and some of his friends had been on a ride through Washington state, and well, the rest was history.
Now that I’m older, I realize that they never intended on staying together very long. Mom just needed a way out and dad was able to provide it. At some point the two of them fell in love, but I think it was after mom gave birth to me. Dad always looked at mom like she was the only woman in the world. When we lost her to cancer, I was barely a teenager and both of us were devastated. It’s probably a huge cliché, but mom was a force of nature. She had a smile that brightened everyone’s day and an infectious laugh that made even the toughest of dad’s friends soften up.
Like mom, I left home at eighteen, but not because I was unhappy. I just felt restless. Idle. The town had been growing smaller and smaller as I grew. Opportunities dried up before I even had the chance to take them. So, I left on the back of my own bike. It was a ‘72 Sportster that dad and I had fixed up when I got my license. I drove all the way out to the coast and settled in one of the beach towns. I’d only seen the ocean a few times in my life, but it felt right living out on the edge of the country like that. The first photo that I put up in my little bungalow was one of mom, laughing with flowers braided into her hair. I knew that wherever she was, she was smiling down at me and proud that I’d decided to make something of myself.