I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
That's the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn't matter much whether you get where you're going or not. You'll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home.
Mimi collected salt and pepper sets. Standing in her kitchen, I would admire the rows and rows of matching shakers from all the places she’d been. There were twin alligators, desert cacti wearing cowboy hats, and black faced African women, with red kerchiefs and big white eyes. I used to try and count them when I was small – I know she had hundreds. Later, when I was older, I used to go through the alphabet in my mind as I ticked off the sets from each state – Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas...
Working as loss prevention detectives for Walgreen’s, Mimi and Grandpa traveled all over the country to shop. Grandpa said Mimi was really good at catching employees who were skimming the cash registers. I could close my eyes and imagine them driving down the road, headed for somewhere like Memphis, Tennessee, to work a store. They’d stop at a little roadside café for coffee, and browse the souvenirs for the perfect salt and pepper set.
What did they see in Portland, Oregon? Were the little girls there like me? Did the food taste different in Gillette, Wyoming? Did they have scary tornadoes in New York, too?
In her tiny kitchen, those salt and pepper sets were like a travel guide or a full color atlas – beckoning my younger self to travel across the country and see new places in our great United States. I was captivated by the romance of life outside my own little Oklahoma town and the call of the open road echoed in my ears. Even today, I still love to trace my finger along maps and imagine what it must be like to drive down a scenic highway I’ve never driven before.
What did I learn from Mimi’s salt and pepper sets? Go as far as you can to see all you can see. Enjoy the diversity of people and places so different from home, and remember to hunt for the perfect treasure to bring back – something that will remind you of the wonderful things you saw and did.
Mimi’s house was a little brighter for all the treasures she brought back from her travels. And I love the handful of salt and pepper sets that she passed down to me. As I gaze upon them in my own little kitchen, they remind me most of how she always came home from her adventures, because that was where she really wanted to be.
Me too, Mimi. Me too.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007