The Whole Wide World

I am the biggest one with the goofy grin. Thank goodness for sisters then and now.

I spent my childhood in a car.

My parents are seekers, treasure hunters, gatherers of moments and memories. We drove to museums and caves and motored over mountains and through valleys. Some of my first memories are seen through a window at fifty miles per hour.  Looking back now, I understand that many of the distances were small, mere field trips from the ordinary. But at the time I felt like they were showing me the world.

On a fall day just after I had started the first grade, they bundled us into the car and began the two hour drive to a place with changing leaves and pumpkins big enough to win blue ribbons. As I buckled myself into the seat my mom handed me a book. It was much thicker than the picture books we read at school and the pages were still stiff and new.

"We thought you might want to do a little reading while we drive. It’s about a place called Pompeii."

The grandness of the venture struck me. A whole book. All those words. And just me. The car pulled out of the driveway and I began to read. I fell into the pages among a people that ate off gold plates and grew grapes on a mountainside. As the car moved forward, I knew the heat of a volcano grand enough to be called Mt. Vesuvius and felt my way through the ash that fell from its angry mouth. And then, sitting so close to my sister our knees touched, I was completely alone.  Everything was still and I discovered the city of Pompeii, a thousand years after everyone had forgotten its name. The streets were vacant and the paintings on the walls of empty houses still held their color. When the car stopped and my mom opened the door to let me out, I blinked for a minute into the light.

Everything had changed.

I have my own little girls now. They are still so small and I do not gather them up into the car and out onto the road as often as I would like. Apparently, toddlers have some strong and vocal objections to long distance driving. No matter. On our best days we do not have to leave the house. Instead we sit on the floor of their room surrounded by blankets and books. We dive into those primary colored covers and swim through places where dragons fly and little girls understand they can do big things. We have afternoon tea with kind hearted rabbits and dance on clouds that taste like sugar and cream. Sometimes, in the middle of a story I brush the hair from my oldest daughter’s face and kiss the pink of my baby’s cheek. As I breathe them in, I know that more often than not the distances I take them will be small. I can give them a few field trips from the ordinary and not much more.

I hope that someday they will know I was trying to show them the world.