I spent much of March sick (was it COVID? Who knows. I wasn’t able to visit a medical professional). Because I spent much of March sick, I spent much of March thinking. Because of the pandemic, all of our plans hang, suspended, over our lives. The current lack of certainty and state of lockdown has brought these back to me:
As a child, I spent afternoons poring over my family’s set of Encyclopedia Britannica: off-white hard covered texts with titles on brown spines. Onion pages. There were 24 volumes, as well as an atlas and two-volume dictionary.
I have no idea how we were able to afford them. They stood, proudly, in a brown bookcase near the front door—always–regardless of where we moved (and we moved a lot. I was the child of a factory worker, and whenever one closed, we would be relocated).
I obsessed over these volumes. Lying on the floor, I turned pages in the encyclopedias looking for photos (many in black and white, few in color) of places, art, and monuments. I’d pause to look up the encyclopedia’s entries on those places and things I found most striking. After that, I’d turn to the atlas, looking for the locations I encountered in the encyclopedias. Using the knuckles of my index finger, I would measure their distances from my small town in northern Idaho
I was 29 before I first traveled overseas. I return as frequently as I can. Those encyclopedias are why I travel (they’re why I do a lot of things, but let’s keep it focused on travel for now).
I want to add to this, and I may do so in future. But for now, while I sit at the kitchen table, self-isolating, it’s enough to acknowledge my debt to those books.
And I thank my mama for them.