March 11, 2021 By Sally Gripman

Now I Was On My Own

There was a tap, tap, tap on the car window. A man was standing there looking quite perplexed with his head and body tilted and his hands on his hips as he said, “Lady, I have given you a choice between RED and GREEN. You must choose.”

There I sat talking with my mother as we were waiting for the traffic signal at the exit of the parking lot at the Firestone Tire and Rubber International Offices in Akron, Ohio.

I looked up in surprise at the officer. He was laughing as he repeated the choices. My mom and I had been in such deep conversation about my departure in a week. I was going to work at the Firestone School in Harbel, Liberia to teach third and fourth grade children of the staff members.

The choice was made. GREEN. I waved goodbye and off we went. Since my “goods” had been sent the previous week, the next week was a flurry of final choices of what to pack and verifying my travel plans for the coming three weeks. WOW. Three weeks in Europe. My English history professor at Muskingum said that we would complete the course with a trip to England. I could hardly wait to send him a postcard. I did send the postcard to Dr. Fisk.

Departure day arrived. With friends and family waving goodbye from Cleveland Hopkins Airport, I was on my way to JFK for my flight to London.

Arriving at JFK, a Firestone representative met me to give me some other documents that I needed for Liberia. We chatted and he took me to the VIP lounge to wait for my flight. From one of several of the interesting people in the lounges, I learned about Aruba. I had never heard of Aruba and the description of the beaches sounded quite exotic.

In due time the hostess in the lounge alerted me to get ready to go to the boarding area. As I packed up my purse and book, etc., I thought that I would call my parents to let them know all is well and that I was about to board the Pan Am plane for the flight to London.

I walked to the bank of those big silver pay phones, made the call, and my parents answered. Suddenly the tears started flowing and just as suddenly I realized that I was going so far away all by myself. Sally was traveling alone for sure.

There were other times that the same feeling of being totally alone would come to me, including the time on a train into Eastern Europe when the Communists were in power, or on an operating table at the hospital in Liberia, or wondering how to cope with three little ones under four years old. The choice back at that traffic signal did indeed change to GREEN and opened the world for me.


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