816 North

‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ A lesson from my dad that’s now relevant for my daughter

Despite an adventurer’s spirit, or perhaps because of it, David Fritsch — better known as “Skipper Dave” to his grandkids — encouraged his daughter, columnist Susan Vollenweider, to “bloom where you’re planted.” It’s wisdom now applicable to Vollenweider’s daughter as she gets ready to leave for college.
Despite an adventurer’s spirit, or perhaps because of it, David Fritsch — better known as “Skipper Dave” to his grandkids — encouraged his daughter, columnist Susan Vollenweider, to “bloom where you’re planted.” It’s wisdom now applicable to Vollenweider’s daughter as she gets ready to leave for college. Columnist

“Hi, Melinda,” I said with a wave as my daughter Bekah and I drove past the little, white U.S. Postal Service truck stopped at a neighborhood cluster mailbox. “I always like when she delivers the mail, it comes earlier.”

Bekah let out a sarcastic snort, “You know you live in a small town if…”

I finished the sentence, “…you know the name of your mail carrier.”

Small town life. “I’m blooming here,” I thought.

Then, my brain filled with images of other places that I could bloom — a downtown loft; a tiny apartment in a tall, suburban building; a shotgun house in New Orleans; a favored seaside town; an island off the New England coast. I had been, or could be, as content living in those places as my current small town.

I wasn’t always like this, but I’m a complainer by nature I have learned.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Bloom where you’re planted?”

That! My dad taught me that.

“I could live here,” my father used to say that when he was in a place new to him. Every place. His eyes would sparkle, a smile would spring to his face, he would give a knowing nod and say, “I could live here.”

He was the master of blooming where he was planted. Whether it was a place he wanted to be, or a place that life dropped him, he had the ability to focus only on the good.

My father was a licensed sea captain. It wasn’t his occupation, but he worked for being on the water. When my parents retired, they sold their house, bought a boat in China, and sailed the world.

On one leg of that adventure, my mother went stateside while my father explored the Pacific. One day, as he was entering a harbor in Pohnpei, Micronesia, a misplaced buoy directed him right into a reef.

When I was a kid, nothing made my dad angrier aboard our boat than running aground. It didn’t happen often, but, if it did, you did not want to be the crew member (read: kid) in charge of watching the depth gauge.

Although no person was responsible, my father running aground on a reef in Pohnpei was infuriating and embarrassing for him. A local diver was sent down to survey the damage and my dad stayed on the tilted boat until the tide was high enough to tow it off the reef.

He waited, tilted, for days.

We talked to him via Skype and he was, at first, not a very happy man. Once the boat was brought to shore for repairs (which required getting parts to a remote island), he adjusted.

Within a week, he knew that this accident was going to start one of his greatest adventures. He loved Pohnpei. The weather was lovely, the island was beautiful, and the diver’s family invited him to family events and meals.

The next thing to pop-up in our cyber communication was a picture of my smiling father sitting, fully dressed, in the ocean water with a group of other old guys, all drinking beer.

He could have lived there.

And he did, for a month.

Once the boat was repaired, the diver sailed off towards Hawaii with my dad and remained aboard for about a year. Apparently blooming can happen in the ocean, too.

As we drove past Melinda and the mailbox, I looked at my daughter. Formerly a commuting student, she starts sleep-away college in a couple months. It will be the first time she has lived someplace without us and it’s a place she only visited once.

But when she did? She looked around and thought, “I could live here.”

Bloom where you’re planted, baby. 

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.

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