Thursday, January 25, 2018

Map Quest

It’s a game they are playing. Every night Evan leaves a message, telling Aiden where he has stopped for the night. Aiden then goes downstairs to the big US map on the wall, finds the destination (with a little help) and puts a push pin there. Aiden’s shushu (Chinese for uncle) has covered a lot of territory since his departure on Monday. He needs to be in California to start his new job by tomorrow, which still involves many, many miles on the road. So far Evan’s luck as held, and he has not run into terrible winter driving conditions (he deliberately plotted a more southerly course). Aiden thinks he will make it on time, and I do too.

Aiden has always loved maps of all kinds. He is also crazy about Evan Shushu. That combination has been a winner, because Evan has traveled quite a bit during Aiden’s 3 ½ years, and my little guy loves to trace his adventures. 

Sometimes the journeys have been American, such as Ev’s cross-country drive helping a friend resettle on the West Coast. Other times, Aiden has needed to switch over to the world map on the other side of the room, where even at a very young age he could point out Barcelona (where Evan went to graduate school) and other spots Evan hit in Europe and Asia. Last winter, his intrepid uncle went with another buddy to Argentina for five weeks of trekking that included time down in Patagonia. This location particularly fascinated Aiden for some reason. Several times daily, Aiden would put on his small backpack and head for the front door. “I’m goin’ to see Shushu in Argentina!!” he would call out. We would solemnly wish him safe travels. Three minutes later he would zip back into the room, journey completed.

What, I wonder, does Aiden think of all these places, depicted in so many different colors and shapes on his maps? He knows where many of them are, and knows some personal connections attached to them too: Indiana, where Steve was born; NYC, where I was born; Thailand, where Rose Gugu (aunt) spent a year. He himself has been to Taiwan several times, and can easily zero in on Taipei, where Ya-Jhu’s family lives.

When I was little, I pictured the world as incredibly diverse and exciting. Then I spent time in different US cities, and was sadly struck by the sameness of so much that I saw—the same fast food places, malls, hotel chains. But in recent years, traveling more, and looking past the surface, I am heartened to realize that little me was right--everywhere IS special and unique.  

I am so grateful that my loved ones and I have been able to travel, and I look forward to Aiden experiencing the world as more than push pins in a map. Putting on a big backpack someday, walking out of the house, and really meeting his beloved shushu in the amazing Argentina of his dreams.

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