Some adventures we had as young baby boomers never quite leave us. And in the case of Doreen Frick of Ord, Nebraska, they live on in the form of her daughter, Pip.
The year was 1969. My dad was taking me and my sister on a trip, a trip that involved a passport, inoculations, and our school’s teachers assigning work to complete in each subject while we were gone. My English teacher wanted me to read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations which I began in good faith above the Atlantic Ocean on an airliner complete with a little lamp overhead.
Just to give you an idea of how long ago this was, dinner had already been consumed, steak done just the way I liked it, medium-rare on the tray with a hearty dessert my sister and I attacked first. Chocolate brownies. Diane began her homework and I began my book and Dad fell asleep exhausted beside us.
By the time we touched down in London, I’d made up my mind that not only did I not intend to read the rest of the chapter, I had no intention of slaving away on all the other dumb assignments my teachers had given me.
Dad never claimed to be a good student but he did his part for his two industrious daughters, faithfully lugging our suitcase full of schoolbooks all over England, Israel, Italy, Greece, and Switzerland. He complained about his shoulder. Somewhere between Italy and Greece the suitcase handle broke from the strain of all the textbooks. Something had to give.
Dad was young, he could clutch the broken case to his chest if he had to, but eventually even young ordinarily patient fathers can reach a breaking point and when we touched down in Zurich, he shook his head when he realized I was playing hooky big time. “Why on earth did you bring all these books if you didn’t intend to study?” he cried.
Clearly I was a mystery to him.
All was good until we got back home and went back to school where my English teacher would quiz me on the narrator of Great Expectations, Pip, and his Great Adventures, gloriously recounted in the book which I was happy to return even if I never got past chapter one. I put it on the back burner until I was sixty and then I rented the movie and it all made sense.
And Dad, he never stopped the running joke about the books he carried all over the world for his two daughters. And the strap that didn’t hold. And the books that never got opened by his oldest girl.
Oh, and that name from the book, Pip? It found its way into my world when I had a daughter (a studious one it turns out) who would grow up to become a teacher. I named her Piper — and yes, I nicknamed her, of all things, Pip.