Prologue: Caged

(February 19, 1969)


I was caged.

Then, I was driven.

Driven to Cherokee.

A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.

Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.

Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak:

Cloudy and cold, condensation and frost riming the windows, piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.

I, cargo.

Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.

Shifting, crossing my legs…

Please, can we stop?

Hot and steamy inside.

Shivering, my teeth rattling.

Please…I have to go!

Hear something, George?

Naw, nothin’ important.


Cargo has no voice.

Madness has no voice.

Listen, crazy girl…

Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…

“I’m crazy, crazy…”

Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…

I, crazy?

* * * * *

From I, Driven: a memoir of involuntary commitment ("Prologue")

© 2008-2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel

Excerpt may not be used or copied without author’s permission.


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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Out Take: And be One Reluctant Traveler...


(September 3, 2004 - September 21, 2004)

(York, Pennsylvania)

The Road Not Taken

--------------------Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
--------------------And sorry I could not travel both
--------------------And be one traveler, long I stood
--------------------And looked down one as far as I could
--------------------To where it bent in the undergrowth;

--------------------Then took the other, as just as fair,
--------------------And having perhaps the better claim,
--------------------Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
--------------------Though as for that the passing there
--------------------Had worn them really about the same,

--------------------And both that morning equally lay
--------------------In leaves no step had trodden black.
--------------------Oh, I kept the first for another day!
--------------------Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
--------------------I doubted if I should ever come back.

--------------------I shall be telling this with a sigh
--------------------Somewhere ages and ages hence:
--------------------Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
--------------------I took the one less traveled by,
--------------------And that has made all the difference.
–Robert Frost

Source: Bartleby


I moved to York on May 6, 1969. Except for a few years abroad and one year in Gainesville, Florida, I have lived in York ever since, longer than anywhere else, including Sioux City.

In 1969, I had but one road in mind: to Jeff. If not for Jeff, I might have stayed in Sioux City or tried California again, but York simply would not have been a place on my map.

But here I am, the course of my life determined by a single-minded decision by a young woman determined to escape her grandparents, to live with a young man she barely knew.

Do I ever wonder how my life might have turned had I not borrowed Eleanor’s transistor radio and sat down next to Jeff Brown on the wall outside of Wallich’s Music City in Hollywood?

Every day.

But without regrets.

Times have not always been easy, but I would have had hard times, no matter where I eventually settled.

Actually, I feel fortunate; via circuitous and often dead-end roads, I found Jerry Siegel, my life companion.

Certainly, throughout the York years, I have experienced minor detours–-though not enough to base entire books–detours of my own making.

The road to Cherokee was different, somehow; I was lost, alienated–-I had not chosen that detour for myself. Traveling to York was totally my decision.

In York, positive events came to pass: I bore my son, married Jeff, discovered higher education–-met and married Jerry, far outweighing the negative aspects: divorce from Jeff, some wrong educational and career choices, years of poverty.

Eleanor and her transistor radio has made my life with Jerry possible.

Now, at 53, I stand at the beginning of a new road, although it, too, will lead back to York: to Skopje, Macedonia.

This will be a reluctant journey, one that I would not take on my own; still, I choose to go because it’s important to Jerry. Since 1969, I have come to understand that life often involves a series of compromises–-sometimes, we have to accompany others on their journeys.

We rush around, getting ready. So much to do, to remember, to pack.

I have photocopied 90-plus letters, my hospital and court records, a booklet about Cherokee, and a newspaper, items I will need for my memoir.

I will write a book about Cherokee.

Two weeks before our departure, we encounter a minor detour: Auto Europe informs us that our car lease deal has fallen apart, something to do with the European Union not allowing its cars in Eastern Europe. This snag involves changing, at significant expense, our itinerary, our final Continental Airlines destination Skopje instead of Rome. This also means that we won’t have a car, which bothers Jerry more than me.

Driving in Eastern Europe holds no great charms for me.

By September 21, we have worked out the itinerary problem; Mark, Jerry’s brother, and Missy take us to Baltimore-Washington International, where we catch the first leg to Skopje, via Zurich.

Tucked safely in my carry-on are my photocopies and a Dell laptop--in my head, a lot questions.


Copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel

"And be One Reluctant Traveler..." may not be re-posted or republished without permission.


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