by Linda Ruddy
In July 2008, Oswego native Colleen Emond’s grandmother, Yvonne Granger, died from cancer. Her death had a profound impact on Emond’s life. She wrote about the experience in her story “Foot-Loose and Fancy-Free” for the Reader’s Digest Your Life contest.
Emond describes her grandmother as the sticky glue that held the family together. She fondly spent weekends at Granger’s home from the time she was born until age 16. “She was the one who would be around on weekends, birthdays and other occasions and make them special.”
When her grandmother died, Emond felt her world crumbling. There was no sunshine in her life. She felt the need to prioritize what was important and make a change somewhere outside of Oswego.
It was always her dream to go to Europe. With her husband’s support, she searched on job boards for a position as a nanny. One possibility presented itself with a family in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. She accepted the offer and resigned from her teaching position.
In just two weeks time the couple was able to liquidate an entire lifetime and houseful of possessions to purchase plane tickets and secure travel money. Emond had custody of her 10-year-old son. Not wanting to turn his life upside down, she arranged for his father to take custody until she was in a more stable position.
Having sold most everything, including their wedding bands, the couple packed two backpacks, a laptop and camera to take on their journey. Emond filled her backpack with her journal, a stuffed animal that her husband had given her for her 16th birthday, a stuffed purple cow from her son and 15 sharpie markers.
“You never know when you want to draw,” she said.
Although the job turned out not to be what she hoped, the couple got to experience the beauty of the area. They met many interesting travelers while staying in a hostel in Amsterdam enabling them to gain a different cultural perspective.
After three unsuccessful weeks of searching for work they sold the laptop for plane tickets back to the states. Throughout the whole experience they came to realize that material things didn’t matter as much as they thought they did.
Although not all the members of her family supported her decision to pack up and leave, Emond feels that Granger would have understood better than anyone else.
“It would have made her sad that I felt that kind of emptiness and pain, but the fact that I was finally getting to see the things that I talked about forever would have made a tremendous deal to her. She would have said you need to go and do what you want to do.”
The experience has led Emond to live her life differently. She hates commercialism and avoids shopping and frivolous expenses. That includes not having a car. She walks everywhere with her camera taking pictures.
“I try to see Oswego with new eyes from the perspective of an outsider,” she explains.
“I don’t feel as weighed down as before. I’ve learned to keep a distance between the rules of life and the fun of life. I know the rules exist, but focus on the fun.” This philosophy has also led to spending more quality time with her son.
Her ultimate life fulfillment would be ‘standing in the Coliseum (in Rome) at midnight.’ “I read that in Daisy Miller in middle school. It stood out to me as singular and perfect and full of history.”
She and her husband, along with her son, hope to make that come true.
Reader’s Digest recently unveiled Your Life… The Reader’s Digest Version, a contest on the Reader’s Digest Facebook page.
The contest asks Americans to write in 150 words or fewer “a lesson, simple advice, funny moment or other story from your life.”
Visit apps.facebook.com/yourlife contest to learn more about the contest and vote for Emond’s story, Foot-Loose and Fancy-Free”. The contest deadline is Nov. 1.