So I drew a map today. I am not a cartographer or even an artist– it looked like a first grader drew it. But I did manage to get the topography of this world down in a format that made slightly more sense than my mutterings and ramblings. Now, I have to finish this novel so I can toss this map aside and draw an entirely NEW map for the second book. Road trip!
Ahem. Today was a belated errand day, so we hit the library and the Taco Bell for snacks and then the grocery store, where we spent practically all our money to restock the cabinets a bit. At least we have food in the fridge and in the pantry. It was getting pretty barren in there this week.
The library was, as usual, playtime for the boys. They have a routine down– they hit the return slot and insist on returning the books without help, then they grab a drink at the water fountain, and then they race for the children’s section to play with the toys and puzzles. Books only feature in this routine when they’re forced to think about them. We ended up with quite a few books, though, since the Ninja has professed a sudden desire to learn about fish and caterpillars. I managed to game the system so that it would allow me to re-check the Season 3 discs of “Castle.” What can I say, I am an addict.
The boys have their own internal map of the errand route. It’s getting better every trip– I wouldn’t have gone to the Taco Bell except the Ninja spotted it and asked for a taco. I reward polite and thoughtful requests– except when I quash them– so I went with it. At least he didn’t ask for Panda Express. I think I’m going to boycott them now that they’ve changed the chow mein and it’s disgusting.
The map of your childhood is so different from the maps you form in your head once you drive, isn’t it? James McMurtry used that in a song, once, before he got all political and back when his songs were less self-conscious and more elegantly elegiac.
“I woke up in a strange world
I can aptly describe
It’s like the streets of a town where I lived
When I was too young to drive
It all looks so Familiar
But I can’t find my way
I must have got lost in the back yard
When I went out to play.”
I can remember the intricate details of my walk to school (a long walk that took us several blocks from home, and one I’d never send a seven year old down alone, myself.) I can remember the palm trees where my friend’s brothers pelted pigeons with rocks. The Catholic school we cut through even though we supposed it forbidden– the alien-ness of the Catholicism was frightening and there were undoubtedly evil nuns that would chase you down for crossing their grass. I can remember flowerbeds, the smell of the grocery store, the pictures of Herefords that hung in the butcher’s shop . . . but I can’t tell you the street names of the cross streets, and I’d sit for a long while with a blank sheet of paper if you asked me to remember the street routes from my great-grandmother’s house to the real estate office where my dad worked.
If we move, I expect that the kids will have that same lost-and-haunted feeling about the Texas towns they grew up in. It’s never the same when you go home again. It’s suddenly a strange place and you’re an alien, someone who drifted in off a map, exited on the wrong exit, and needs to get back on the freeway.
I feel more at home in the swamps of my fictional world, slogging through mud and watching the stars wheel through the night sky.