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What are You Searching For?

I used to tell stories with shampoo and conditioner bottles. The pretty bottles would be the moms, the tall ones would be the dads, the short ones were kids, and the VO5 bottles were always the uncles. Every good story needs villains—and my bathtub time wasn't without a whole cast of them. A bubble bath bottle with a big purple cat head made for an easy bad guy as did a giant cream rinse refill with a pump dispenser on top—they were always causing problems for the rest of my community of bottles.

I loved lining up all my characters on the edge of the bath tub and creating new adventures for them. I would dig out bottles from under the sink to make my stories more fun. The hydrogen peroxide was a cop, the spray bottles were usually visitors to my bottle city, and if there was an unopened bottle of Prell shampoo—that was always the beautiful single lady that all of the eligible Suave bachelors wanted to date.

It drove my mom crazy, because I was forever digging out every bottle we had under the sink and in the medicine cabinet to create my stories—and I wasn't very good about putting them all back. My family teased me for my bottle people, they didn't understand that to me the stories were already there, and it was my job to let them out. I don't remember when I quit lining up the bottles on the bathtub edge—but the older I got, the better I was at putting them back, hiding all trace that I still told stories with them. I became a closet bottle junkie.

My youngest and I were recently snuggled on the couch reading Red Sails to Capri. A story of a young Italian boy whose life was changed with a red sailboat, a mystery and a lot of adventure. Its one of those books that you loved so much that it becomes extra special when you share it with your kids. In it there are three men who arrive on the island of Capri: a philosopher in search of truth, a painter in search of beauty and a writer in search of adventure. Part way through the book, Lord Derby, the painter, tells the young boy “I think that almost everyone is looking for something—something special, something that means more to him than anything else in the world. I look for a bit of beauty no matter where I go, and Monsieur Jacques is forever searching for adventure. And we find it. I think some way or other most people find the things they look for.”

My son stopped me at this point, “Does everyone search for something?”

“I suppose in some way they do,” I answered.

“I know what you search for!” he grinned. “Love!”

I smiled and asked him what he searched for. “I don't know, I'll have to keep searching for awhile,” he answered thoughtfully.

I continued reading the book. But in the back of my head, I kept asking myself, what is it that I'm searching for?

A few days later, I woke up abruptly from a crazy dream. My husband has always wanted to fly, and he's constantly looking at airplanes, and dreaming about the day we'll road trip by air. So in my dream, he had finally gotten his airplane—he had retro-fitted our big bale stacker with wings. He left the wheels and tires so we could land in rough terrain—the farmer version of an Alaskan bush plane. I packed a basket of snacks, and we took to the skies in our new bale-stacking-airplane. It was pretty heavy, so we flew low to the ground. Then came a mountain range and we couldn't get enough clearance—and our retro-fitted farm machine dropped out of the sky. Not to worry though, all those tires did just what they were meant to, and we set down heavily and kept rolling.

That's when I realized what I'm searching for. The stories. Everyone (and everything) has one. The stranger on the hike that has been backpacking for 7 months—turns out he lost his wife and he's searching for meaning in life now that she's gone. The lady at the hot springs who left her home in Scottland to come to the US in search of her father. Even inanimate objects have stories and personalities. Once my dad dragged home a beast of a forklift from an auction—and since seniority has priority—and I had neither, I got stuck driving “The Albatross.” It was the Herman Munsters  of forklifts. It was big, and it got the job done—but there was no finesse to it.  Then later he bought a backhoe that was the cutest thing you'd ever seen. It was like Opie on the Andy Griffith Show. Cute, willing and just a touch clumsy when he went through growing pains.

It's been years since I've told aloud the stories from the bottles in my bathroom, but I can still see their ages and faces in each bottle I buy—and truth be told, I may pass on shampoo I'd like, because they have villainous shaped bottles—and my stories can only use one bad guy at a time.



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