A story inspired by the song ‘No Roots’ by Alice Merton.
By: Robin Gagnon
“Happy twentieth birthday sweetheart,” my mother smiled at me, placing a cake on the table in our trailer that had been called home my whole life. “You’re officially an adult.”
My boyfriend stood there taking a video on an old fashioned camcorder and I put my hand up to my face in embarrassment. In front of me were twenty blue candles that were stuck in a white frosting cake, which my mom had baked herself. My dad had even tried his hand at writing my name on the cake for my special day. I was their only child, so I had been spoiled immensely by any way they could. They always told me I was their miracle child, since they weren’t supposed to be able to have a kid in the first place.
“What did you wish for?” my dad asked eagerly, running a hand over his bald head. “Perhaps a lottery win?”
“I can’t tell you,” I teased him. “Otherwise, it won’t come true.”
“That’s just an old wives’ tale,” my mother replied, as she took the cake to the counter behind her. “Go on and tell us.”
“Is your wish to look less like your mother,” my father whispered. “If it is, I won’t tell her.”
My mom smacked him lightly on the shoulder. We did look alike, though. Both of us had dirty blond hair, which we kept in two braids at all times, and matching light green eyes. The only distinguishable feature that set us apart, besides age, was my mom’s hunch.
“That’s definitely not what I wished for,” I replied, giving my dad a fake glare. “I’d like to keep my hair, thanks. I actually wished to know where I was born.”
My parents shared a glance and I felt a little bad saying it, but it was true. My family had always lived with a band of gypsies and we hardly ever stayed in one spot for more than a year. In fact, I didn’t think we even stayed in the same state for more that a year.
“There you go jumping the gun again, squirt,” my dad sighed, taking a birthday card out of one of the old, broken kitchen drawers. “We were going to give this to you after we had eaten cake, but you’ve never been one to beat around the bush.”
My boyfriend, Bryson, chuckled and replied with his brown eyes sparkling behind black rimmed glasses, “That’s how we fell in love.”
My dad gave him his best ‘I’m her father’ glare, but it had no effect. The two had known each other for too long and it had been my dad, after all, who had picked him up off of the side of the road. He had been hitchhiking to escape his drug dealing father and alcoholic mother, and as soon as my parents had heard his story, he became one of the family. I had fallen in love with his exotic looking cocoa colored skin first and then his dark eyes that looked like the night sky on a clear summer’s night. After that, his caring and charismatic personality further won me over and I confessed my feelings for him. My parents had already become like family to him, so it was no surprise when he had said that he loved me too.
“Just give her the card,” my mother nagged him, snatching it out of his hands. “Here you go, sweets.”
I opened the card and inside was a post card along with a message that read; ‘To our beautiful and energetic daughter, we hope you have a wonderful twentieth birthday and our gift to you is a trip back to the day you were born. Follow the clues and hopefully one day, you can see where your life, and ours, truly began.’
I looked at the post card and on it was a picture of the park we had stayed at last year in Georgia with a hint that read, ‘Pick a peach from a tree. Pick a peach, that’s not actually free. Across the road by the picket fence, will tell you where else we went.”
“The peach farm,” I muttered half to myself, remembering the place we had pulled over to the side of the road to pick peaches off a farmer’s tree. “Wait, you want me to go back to every place that we’ve been, until I reach the place where I was born?”
“That’s right,” my mom smiled with crooked teeth. “I always used to wonder where I grew up, but my mother could never remember, since we had been to so many places. So when you were growing up, I hid time capsules at each memorable place we visited, with a hint to where we’d been last, so that one day you’d know where you were born.”
I looked up at my parents in disbelief and replied, “That’s amazing! So, we’re going to go back the way we came? What about the others?”
“We’re not going with you.”
“Wait, what are you talking about?”
My parents smiled at each other and motioned me to follow them outside. Once we had walked around to the other side of the trailer, I came face-to-face with a used, two-seater RV.
“This,” I started, unsure what to say. “This is for me?”
“And me,” Bryson piped up, still filming. “We’re going to go back together!”
“What about you two?” I asked my parents sadly.
“We’ll be around,” my mother smiled, taking my father’s hand. “We plan on sticking around Florida for a while before heading north. Perhaps you’ll catch us before we leave, but, if you don’t come back, just know that we love you and support anything you choose to do.”
“Of course I’ll come back to see you guys,” I replied immediately. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Every baby bird must leave the nest and fly on their own current,” my mom answered with a wisdom from travelling to so many places. “You may find that your current leads you elsewhere.”
My eyes began to tear up and we embraced each other in a group hug. Later, we ate cake and played cards until we decided to head to bed.
“It’ll be fun,” Bryson murmured, as we cuddled. “A vacation for just the two of us.”
I fell asleep that night and dreamt of all the places I had been to, eager to see some of them again. I even imagined what the place I was born looked like. All I could seem to agree on was that it was absolutely beautiful.
The next day, Bryson and I packed our things and headed out.
“Be careful,” my mother called out, waving with tears streaming down her face. “Have fun!”
My father looked just as forlorn and their faces remained in the back of my head, as Bryson drove on toward our first clue.
It took a while, but eventually we found ourselves back at the peach farm we had passed when we headed into Florida. Based on the clue, the capsule had to be on the road opposite of the farm.
“Where should we start digging?” Bryson asked, holding a metal shovel. “Do you know where your mom buried it?”
We looked along the fence and finally found a spot where the earth seemed different than the rest. After digging for a short while, Bryson unearthed a tube in the dirt.
Opening up the capsule, I found a post card from the camp we had stayed in Alabama with a clue on the back of it.
It read, ‘If you like to golf, swim or float into the sky, this place makes the days go easily by.’
“Point Mallard park,” Bryson answered immediately. “I remember the hot air balloons. They were amazing.”
Snagging a bunch of peaches, we got back into the RV and headed out. Eventually, we reached our new destination and after a lengthy search, we found the time capsule, which ultimately led us to to a place known as Clark Creek in Mississippi.
Finding the next few places were easy, despite the RV breaking down twice in Louisiana, getting lost in Texas and the RV breaking down again in New Mexico. Solving the riddles has been easy because of their memories, but once they started going farther back into the past, things began to get tricky.
They took days trying to figure out the clue in Arizona and ended up making a pit stop in California to enjoy themselves a little while before heading to their new destination in Nevada.
With my arm resting on the car’s window sill while we drove, I flipped the post card over in my hands a couple times.
“Still can’t figure it out?” Bryson asked as he drove.
“Not yet,” I mumbled, yawning in the moonlight of the red desert that surrounded us. “I feel like I should know this one.”
The clue read; ‘Down the road of lost things, your biggest gem gleams in the dark.’
“I don’t know either,” Bryson replied, staying oddly quiet. “But I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Watching him with concern, I figured out what was wrong. Around Las Vegas had been where we had found him. He’d been standing on the side of the road, that we were currently driving on, with only the few hundred dollars that he had stolen from his father.
“Are you going to be alright?” I finally asked him with concern. “Should we stop? Maybe go back to California for a bit?”
“No way,” Bryson exclaimed, as he looked at me as though I was crazy. “We are going to do this. I’ll be fine.”
After a while of driving in silence, Bryson turned to me and asked, “What do you suppose the place you were born is like?”
“Not sure,” I admitted. “I’ve been giving it a lot of thought though.”
Further up the road, we stopped at a gas station. A big, fancy car sat outside and we parked beside it to fill up our gas. I decided to head into the connivence store to grab some snacks while I waited. When I went in, a tired old man stood there unamused, while a dark skinned woman in an elaborate outfit browsed the alcohol section of the store.
I picked out a few snacks and drinks that both Bryson and I would like, and then I went to pay for everything.
“This and the gas,” I explained to the man, as the woman came stumbling up to the counter with her booze. “My boyfriend is putting in sixty bucks.”
“Oooooh a boyfriend,” the woman shrilled. “I used to have one of those until I won some money. I mean, a lot of money.”
She laughed, as the guy behind the counter rang me through. I handed him the cash and was about to leave, when I saw a missing poster of a young boy with the name ‘Bryson Matthews’ underneath.
The lady caught me looking and mumbled to me, “That’s my son. Stole my ex-boyfriend’s money and then ran away. We put up wanted posters to find him so we could get our money back. Ungrateful brat. He better hope his daddy don’t find him.”
I looked over to the RV where Bryson was putting on the gas cap and quickly left, just as the owner of the gas station got into a fight with the woman for being too drunk to buy booze.
“Hey,” Bryson greeted. “I’m just going to pay for the gas.”
“I already did,” I replied a bit too quickly. “I, uh, think a woman in there is drunk and the owner’s probably going to call the cops soon. We should probably just leave.”
Bryson gave me a funny look, but got back in the RV anyway. When I looked in the sideview mirror, the woman was stumbling out of the store and yelling profanities at the store clerk, whom had taken her keys.
A part of me felt bad for not telling Bryson about meeting his mom, but at the same time, I knew he was better off not knowing. After all, he has run away and gotten lost in the desert just to get away from her. Suddenly, an idea clicked in my head.
“I think I get it,” I announced proudly. “The road of lost things is the road we found you on. Perhaps my mom hid something nearby where we found you.”
“She did stick a solar light in the ground,” Bryson recalled. “She said it was to mark the first day of my new life. Do you think it’s there?”
My heart leapt with joy, as I reread the last part of the clue, “The gem gleaming in the dark! That has to be it.”
We drove quite far down the stretch of road, as we both watched each side to see if we could see the glow of a solar light in the night.
“There,” Bryson finally exclaimed, pointing at the other side of the road. “I think that’s it.”
We pulled over and crossed the street to where a solar light shone. I was surprised that it had even lasted after all these years. After we had found the clue and gotten back into the RV, Bryson handed me the faded grey solar light.
“I thought this was supposed to mark the start of your new life?” I asked without taking it. “Don’t you want to keep it here?”
“Nah,” he answered, putting it in between the two seats. “I’m going to keep it where my life really began. With you.”
I smiled warmly at him and he leaned over and kissed me. Maybe one day I’d tell him that I met his mother at that gas station, but not today.
Months went by and we had found our way through the states of Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. A lot of the clues we couldn’t figure out and we ended up having to explore the states before we found our answer. It was fun, however, and when we reached Montana, I knew we were finally getting close.
“What’s the matter?” Bryson asked me, as we explored for the answer to our newest clue. “You look a little sad.”
“It’s because soon this will be all over,” I replied with my chin in my hand. “Once we figure out where I was born, then what? I kind of don’t want to go back to Florida. I love my parents, but I want it to be just the two of us for a bit longer.”
“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “We’ll figure something out.”
I smiled at him and decided to reread the clue once more.
In my mother’s fancy penmanship, it read; ‘To the south a rising sun, to the north a swift current runs. In between is a small paradise, named after a food you can feed to mice.’
“I think we need a map,” I finally announced, after looking at the black and white photo, which had been included with the last clue, of my parents holding me as an infant in front of a lake. “I feel like the clue is describing the name of places like the clue in Iowa.”
“Alright,” Bryson agreed. “I’ll stop and get one at our next stop.”
When we finally got a map, it took me a few days to comb through it before I finally found what we were looking for.
“That’s it!” I exclaimed like I always did when I figure out a clue. “Cracker lake. It’s in between a place called Rising Sun and Swiftcurrent.”
We plotted a course to our destination and quickly set off. It was days, and two break downs later, until we finally got there and I couldn’t believe the beauty of it all. The lake was a surreal turquoise colour and the mountains with snow covered peaks stood proudly in the background.
“Want to start looking?” Bryson asked as we set up camp. “Or shall we enjoy the sights for a while?”
“We could probably do both,” I joked, hugging my sweater a little tighter, as the wind slightly blew a cold breeze. “My mom didn’t really give us a clue to find out where exactly it was.”
In the end, we stayed a few days before locating the clue, which had been buried deep by the lake where my parents had stood in the photo.
“What does it say?” Bryson asked me excitedly, not noticing the quiet shock on my face. “Does it tell you where you were born?”
I read the words over and over in my head, not wanting to believe what was was written.
“Cross the boarder into new land,” I read aloud for Bryson to hear. “That’s where you’ll find where you first grasped my hand. Below ten peaks is Moraine looking very pristine, just go and ask for cabin sixteen.”
“So,” Bryson replied after a little while. “You were born in Canada?”
I stared at the post card from Alberta in my hand and nodded silently, unsure what to say.
“Do you want to go there?” he asked, pulling me into a side hug. “Or would you rather stay here?”
“We made it this far,” I declared bravely. “I’m going to finally see the place I was born.”
Suddenly, it made sense as to why my parents had gotten our passports a couple years ago. They had obviously been planning this very carefully since the day I was born. I smiled, grateful for them and wondered how they had been doing since we had left.
Later, Bryson and I remained pretty quiet during our long journey up north and across the border. The police at the border had let us know that the place we were looking for was called Moraine Lake and even gave us a map to direct us there. Eventually, we made it to the park and asked for cabin sixteen, where we found that the view was even more beautiful than Cracker Lake. Ten snow capped peaks stood tall against the sky line and a sea of dark green pine trees surrounded a rather large lake.
“I found this when I was unpacking our things from the RV,” Bryson murmured, handing me a metal capsule as he held me from behind. “I hope you don’t mind that I already went and looked for it.”
“Not at all,” I smiled at him, as a fire crackled in the fireplace. “I’m really nervous though.”
I shook, as my hands touched a piece of paper inside the tube. When I pulled it out, I found a birth certificate.
“Oh my gosh,” I whispered with tears in my eyes. “It’s my real birth certificate. Not the fake one my mom has.”
On the back was a message from my mother; ‘You are a daughter of the world. You were never born in just one city, state or country. Go out and explore your home.’
I laughed from relief of finally finding out the answer to what was almost like a life-long journey.
“What do you want to do now?” Bryson asked in my ear, as his chin rested on my shoulder.
I thought about it for a moment before replying, “How do you feel about travelling around the world?”