I remember the roads to my Grandmother’s house. We called her “Bamma” to distinguish her from my maternal Grandmother, who would later be know simply as G’ma, and hold an even more important role in my life. As a young child, growing up in the suburbs of Houston, we would make the six hour trek to my Bamma’s house, just north of Austin. I remember the terrain changing to a hilly roll.. I remember the van’s AC unit working with an easier hum as we drew closer to my Bamma’s house. I remember my dad going over some of the rolls of the road and yelling with triumph, “WOAH! That will get you in your belly!” when the car hit zero gravity for a split second, gliding over each crest of ... to our minds.. mountains.
In reflection, after living in Washington state and visiting Germany and the Swiss Alps, those Texas mountains of my youth are Ant Hills to my present. But my childhood mind blows them up to disproportionate heights. Like every aspect of childhood, those trips take on a cartoon-like shape. I visit those memories like someone on a video game would now: Reaching back to that last saved game and running it through from start to finish. Each consecutive trip a level to discover.
I wonder if my children will think of their lives this way or if they will have better therapy to help organize their memories from Atari to Frontal Matter.
Either way, I stare now at the map of Texas, a flat representation of my youth. I smile at the familiar roads: 45, 518, NASA1. I lived there as a child, giving my most formative years to the southern-suburbs of Houston. And again, as a young career woman, giving my future to the college of Galveston, where I first taught computers and subsequently changed my career path forever. This map of Texas is not only familiar, it’s engrained in the very being that peers at it, from so far away, nearly 2,345 miles away, to be more exact.
I marvel at the flexibility of the human brain. That I have not one, or two, but three homes. That I find comfort in two countries and two very different states. That I can walk through the Nürnberg Market on a Saturday and feel as much my childhood as I can in Kroger in Houston on a Sunday. The fact that I live in a Wine Country in the north-east of Seattle seems to not matter; familiarity is bred deep within my brain and the roots dig to experiences I share with few. Inhaling the wet, humid, salty air of Houston is as much a welcome as the crisp, dry air of the Mountain here. And in the manner, so are the signs of German in a variety of villages and menus and friends as I wander the countryside of a country I was born in to by proxy.
Home is a fluid dynamic, not nearly as static a representation as we think as children.
Looking at the map of my childhood, remembering the trips of my youth, I think of how wide I thought my world grew on those trips north to my Bamma’s house. The six hours in the car meant a change in climate, but not language or comfort. Having traveled from Nürnberg to Prague and München and back, I can appreciate travel in a new way. I understand how small and yet wide our world is. How mindful and yet closed our fellow humans are. I see a world that I both am familiar and that I have no amount of experience in.
I think this is maturity. There is no way to pass this to my own children, who whine about the three hour drive to their own Grandparent’s house. There is no speaking reality or passing down a sense of “big”. You must experience that before you embrace it. Years, distance, ownership; those are the keys to knowing how a small map, seemingly so large many years ago, can make one smile in remembrance of those experiences held tightly in the memory of decades past.