Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What was my dad thinking?!

The other day I was digging through old photographs and I stumbled across this:

Those two little cards sat inside of this little wallet:

Which sat in the back pocket of my jeans everyday from 1994-1998. Sorry, no pictures of my back pocket. 

That was my Travelcard. It let me travel anywhere in London using any bus or any tube line at any time. I remember my dad handing it to me and stressing how important it was that I NOT lose my Travelcard. It lasted 4 months, was not replaceable and as you can see cost 116.80 pounds. I was impressed that my dad trusted me (at age 11) to not lose something (so easily lost) that cost so much money. Oddly enough, I wasn't impressed that my dad was trusting me (at age 11) to navigate a major city like London all by myself. What was he thinking?!?!

We moved to London in 1994 and I started 5th grade. During the first semester, the three of us (Marie, David and I) took the "school bus." It was a small white van driven by a Scottish guy named Tony who introduced me to Queen. Maybe the bus service was too expensive or too inconvenient, but for whatever reason my dad decided to pull us off the bus and buy us all Travelcards instead. I think his initial idea was that the three of us would catch the bus (the double deckered 13 or 82) together in Hampstead and ride it to St. John's Woods where our school was. That was probably the case for the first week, but after that it was every Tueller for themself. Marie must have been too cool to ride with me and David. And David must have been too slow to ride with me. Somehow the three of us separately got to school unharmed and on time everyday for four years. Which, now that I'm a parent myself, seems like a small miracle. If I was 11 when I first started using the London transit system, David must have been 9. And this was way before 9-year-olds had cell phones. 

Yet maybe my dad was onto something. When people ask me where my favorite place to live was, I automatically respond with London and I think this Travelcard had a lot to do with it. I had so much freedom and it came at such a good age for me. My sister (who was three years older and in high school) was perhaps not at a good age for this type of freedom. But for me it was heavenly. Sure, some bad things happened on the bus on to school. I had my first kiss (with Pierce Brosnan's son, Sean). I also vaguely remember a creepy pervert exposing himself to me. It shook me at first but then I recalled how my Aunt Anna responded in  a similar situation (or was it my Aunt Martha?) and decided that laughter is the best reaction. 

But for the most part, the freedom my Travelcard granted me was amazing and now that I look back on it, perhaps necessary. I'm sure traffic was a nightmare and gas, expensive. It didn't help that our family car was a "tank" compared to the petite British cars that roamed the streets of London. Not to mention how horribly embarrassing that car was. It stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the only American car in a country of right handed steering wheels. Place my mother at the wheel and it was enough to drive any teenager "underground."

Traveling alone made me feel so independent, so grown up. I went from St. John's Woods to Swiss Cottage everyday for swim practice. I would meet my best friend, Catharine on Bond Street for an afternoon of shopping whenever I felt like it. I went to Golder's Green to see movies and Hyde Park to visit the museums. When I heard the news of Princess Diana's death, I headed straight to Hampstead tube station so I could join the thousands of mourners at Kensington Palace. I'm  pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to do all these things if I had to rely solely on my mom for transportation. My Travelcard allowed me to truly experience London and all the fun things it had to offer at the time. 

So who knows. Maybe it was out of necessity but maybe my dad is just a super genius and knew then what I know now- that trusting your kids with both small and big things will help them grow up to be independent and confident. Anyone that has successfully gotten from Point A to Point B in a major capital without getting lost knows how wonderful that sense of accomplishment feels. Right now I can't even trust Booker to get from our car to the sidewalk without getting hit by another car. Maybe one day both Booker and Ike will be crisscrossing the world by plane, train and automobile with ease. I hope that as a parent, I'll have the ability to trust that they're safe. I hope even more that I raise the type of kids who have a desire to travel and see the world. 

Wow, what a long and random post. All because I found my bus pass.  


Emma said...

Just this past week, I (Aunt Anna) was being nostalgic about the various times in my wanderings about the world that I was flashed; I value each and every memory, from a boy sitting next to me in my fifth grade class in Morocco to a stranger walking toward me on a street in Caracas. I credit my ability to stay cool, no matter what arises, to these experiences.

sherry said...

First of all, you were a dang cute kid. And I am seriously impressed that your first kiss was Pierce Brosnan's son. How have I never heard that from you before? Now, my oldest is 11. And the thought of her travelling London on a bus is enough to give me a heart attack. In fact, the fact that she takes the bus to school is what prompted me to get her a cell phone. If she was loose on the town I would panic. Not that I don't trust her to be responsible enough to get from point a to point b. SHe is perfectly capable. But I don't know who else is out there at those points with her. Bunch of freaks. And children getting beat to death at parks by a random stranger. Motherhood has made me a little paranoid, I wonder if it will do the same for you. WE will see when Booker turns 11;) (my word varification is"nudist";)

sherry said...

Sorry, it was really "mudest". My bad.

Anonymous said...

Hey Margaret this is christian and dad was one telling a story of when he was 11 years old he rented a moped on his own in Morocco and drove to some town to buy a special carpet.

Dan and Jan said...

That is crazy! It makes me nervous just thinking about you and your siblings traveling around London all by yourselves. What about this story of Pierce Brosnen's son? Do you have other celebs lurking in your past?

Hobbie said...

Adam & I are both so jealous, we dream of living in London!
As I think back on my childhood, I too, am surprised at the trust/freedom I was given to "wander" around with my friends. I am glad about that for MY childhood. Although this is coming from someone who won't let her 9 yr old play anywhere that I can't see him from my door or window........maybe in a year or two, i will have become a little more relaxed (we'll see, i doubt it)

The Burtons said...

That was a great post! I enjoyed reading it. I've never been further than mexico, but I do remember stealing my grandma's car a handful of times to cruise the neighborhood and it was very freeing! You should write a book!