Training Wheels

Dream BigThe year I turned sixteen, I was shocked and thrilled when I wrangled permission from my parents to summer in Mexico – with one caveat: that I’d be kept in tow by the daughter of my mother’s lifelong friend, Judy McCoy. Kathy had ventured south the prior June to attend a gringo-specific university summer session in the state of Jalisco. A relatively unrelated group of high school acquaintances learned of her plans to return and begged to be included. I was first in line.

Kath was an accomplished student and singer who taught me to play the guitar. Conservative Sandy held a job from the age of fourteen, always had cash in her pocket, and chauffeured girls in her beloved Rambler to every football game. Debbie was scattered and artistic, always late. Her disorganized ways were the basis of my early instruction in patience. Younger than the others by a year, I was the wild child everyone could count on to accept a dare and dance on a crowded cafeteria table at high noon.

Sans chaperone, we were gleefully Guadalaraja-bound when our parents put us on a Greyhound bus headed for the Mexicali railroad depot. And, although we knew each other before we left, we truly began this life-changing adventure as four strangers on a train.

The trip took three days by rail. The coach’s air conditioning only pumped cool air while the wheels were in motion, and since the schedule dictated a stop every fifteen minutes along the route, it turned out to be a hot, dusty voyage. We slept upright in our berth, walked the length of the string of cars a hundred times, inhaled candy bars and practiced our Spanish on the native passengers. We photographed beautiful vistas of the interior of Mexico that could only be seen from the window of our railcar – which, by the way, is called a “bogie” in India.

For six weeks we successfully navigated the cities of a foreign country. I fell asleep on the rock seawall in Mazatlan, got thrown off a sailboat in the middle of muddy Lake Chapala, and was frightened by over-served Federales on Puerto Vallarta’s Mismaloya beach, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed Night of the Iguana. We ate the world’s most delicious street vendor’s tacos, then held back each others’ hair when we all came down with full-body Montezuma’s Revenge.

I literally had the time of my life.

I screwed up and grew up on that trip. Those bickering, fresh-faced girls were the first of my lifelong women friends, and that expedition turned out to be a mutual initiation into a “team that worked.” I learned the special gift only true buddies offer: they love the spirit of us, they see us perfect. Our lives have taken different routes, but every birthday the phone rings, and when the caller murmurs a simple, “heh heh heh,” I’m back in Mexico, smelling diesel exhaust, a teenager again.

Overall, our vacation was everything I thought it might be, and the journey turned out to be so much more: Training wheels. I like to think that summer began a long, drawn out, often derailed venture of discovery I hope to continue until my last breath. As Lillian Smith said, “No journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.

The girl I was in my youth did not aspire to be a writer. I never imagined I would find myself here, now, working hard to master social media and finish my soon-to-be published book. Lucky me, though, these projects have opened the door to an even more unexpected gift: collaboration. The talented, generous, inspiring, exquisite men and women I’ve met through my online efforts have changed my mind about more than my potential as an author.

I deeply appreciate this chapter of my life, because I feel inspired now by yet another team: authors, friends, peers and supporters who offer encouragement and share tips, good news and best practices. They act as all-around cheerleaders to shout out every blog post and achievement without regard to what it may bring them. They’ve helped me become a better me, a better writer, and a better friend.

I am deeply thankful.

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27 Responses to Training Wheels

  1. Christine Nolfi September 20, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Molly, I adore all of your posts but this one is especially moving. Forging lifelong friendships as a teenager, carrying those sweet lessons of trust and sharing into adulthood–it’s no wonder that your fiction carries such depth. And may I switch parents with you? Mine never would’ve let me visit a foreign country at such a young age without a much older chaperone tagging along!

    • Molly Greene September 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      Thank you my friend for your sweet comment! I was shocked when my parents said yes – and looking back, I see now it was a great decision on their part.

  2. Peabea September 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    How great to have had the opportunity for such an experience, and especially with friends. Plus, congratulations on a soon to be published novel.

    • Molly Greene September 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

      Thank you so much!

  3. Cindy O. Herman September 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Molly, you sure have a way of describing a scene so others can experience it, and at the same time expressing gratitude to the people reading it. You are gifted. And a gift to know!

    • Molly Greene September 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

      And you are a gift to know as well, my sister!

  4. forbiddenhero September 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    That’s a real eye opener for me. I don’t have any real friends like that, yet I rely so much on what I do to get me through. The only true friend I have, is the woman I want to marry, but other than that, there’s nothing. Online though, I find plenty of people to talk to, yet it’s not the same. Maybe someday I’ll have that too, but it’s great to read about those experiences.

  5. [email protected] September 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Molly…Wonderful post! A coming of age moment so vividly described. Thanks for sharing…:)

    • Molly Greene September 20, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      Thank you so very much!

  6. amhereforyou September 21, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    I liked your post about training wheels as it puts me back at the age of sixteen and all that was going on with me. Also the friends I had then and the new friends I have now. I am happy for you that your book is almost ready to be published.

    • Molly Greene September 21, 2011 at 1:02 am #

      Thank you so much! It’s fun to reflect on the past and look forward to what the future brings.

  7. Phantomimic September 22, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    Your post brought back memories. I had several experiences like these in trips I took with my friends, although at the time I was older than you. These treks generated many moments that I will always remember. By the way, I lived 2 years in Mexico. My family and I did a lot of travelling. The country has a great history and geography. Too bad it has recently been marred by all the drug-related violence.

  8. Sigrid Macdonald September 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    What a beautiful description of your adventures, Molly. I’m glad that I came of age during a time when kids and teenagers had so much more freedom than today. It’s good that your parents weren’t overprotective — as you said, you grew up and you screwed up. That’s the only way to live. Thanks for sharing. Sigrid

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2011 at 1:55 am #

      Thank you, Sigrid! I’m still growing up :-O

      • Sigrid Macdonald September 24, 2011 at 8:48 am #

        Aren’t we all, Molly? Still works in progress 🙂

        • Molly Greene September 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

          Boy, isn’t that the truth?? Thank you, Sigrid!

  9. Carol J. Garvin September 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    “I screwed up and grew up on that trip.” That about describes our ongoing journey through all of life, doesn’t it? Risking change, embracing discovery, making friendships… such things enrich our spirits and make a lasting impact. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

      You’re right, I hadn’t thought of that but such is life. Thanks so much for the lovely comment!

  10. D.B. Smyth September 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! This is simply beautiful!!!

    • Molly Greene September 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks DB, means a lot to me, thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  11. bridgetstraub October 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    I cannot imagine sending my daughter off for the whole summer two years from now, but what an adventure. It may be only my own selfishness that would hold her back.

    • Molly Greene October 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      I think it depends on the child and the circumstances – I was sixteen a long time ago, and things have changed a lot!! Thanks so much for the read and comment.

  12. Sally Steinmann June 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    My faorite of your articles to date, Molly, so heartfelt an rich with wisdom and love. Just terrific! 🙂

  13. jawadmunir July 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    really nice 🙂


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