There are stories in my body that I could tell: Of the hip sway I found in the lead of a grey-haired woman with a sign on her Antigua door that read, “salsa lessons.” Of my left palm touching my right forearm when I outstretch my hand to receive change, a show of respect acquired in the Himalayas that I still offer to the cashier in the Rockies today. Of the scars left from volcano-esqe mosquito bites erupting staff infection before I feverishly limped into a Thai pharmacy and was sent to bed for a forgotten-week. Or of the way my pores flushed one Senegalese summer as the son of a Sufi chief and I cross-compared cultural parables until the intersecting storylines merged as one. Or of the blisters on my heels pierced with hot needles and colored thread, one of a hundred pilgrim secrets whispered in my ear while walking 1,200 miles across Europe. But when I put my pen to paper, my hand is inclined to curl the script into a different story as to how I ended up here.
My mother once said to me, “You know we’re the same? When I was 21, I had all your same urges and inclinations and had I the option to fly into dark skies and wake up in inconceivable places, with a eye on the landscape and pen in hand, I would not have hesitated….” She continued, “…but it was not within my realm of consciousness. I was in the first class of women allowed at my university. In 1962, that was pushing the cultural boundaries. The day I graduated, the world cheered, “Congratulations! Now you can get married and have children!”
So I got here by a cadre of boundary-pushing great-great grandmothers and great-great-aunts and great-great intrepid strangers. An ancestry carried luggage and loads to the homes and hospitals where they birthed the potential to take the story a chapter further, to this one, where the pages flip furiously in the choosing of own-adventures. An army of explorers took timid first steps onto boats and planes and over borders, and each of those paths in some shape, stone, or step, contributed to mine.
As he rubbed sleep from his eyes this morning, my son said, “Mama, can we get on an airplane today?” In recognition of the obvious inheritance of my travel gene, I marveled at the canvas of his perfect body, wondering what deserts and waters and landscapes might leave their imprint upon it. Where will I carry my children and what ceilings might I also shatter to break open the world in ways I might characterize to my daughter 30-years from today — as inconceivable?1