Each time I sit down to transfer a memory from the past, committing to paper my travels through life, I also reach to the top shelf in the spare bedroom closet to riffle through the boxes of memories looking for proof of the past in the form of old photographs. Amongst the boxes on the top shelf also sits a small brown suitcase (vintage ’70’s and once belonging to a much larger set) stuffed with ancient fading dog-eared photos, some so old that even the few remaining people who might possible recall names, places and dates have long forgotten the faces staring out. Pawing through literally thousands of photos one would come to believe we hardly ever left the confines of our home let alone traveled to far-flung corners of the globe. Instead I find snap shots of birthday parties, first communions, an array of Halloween costumes as well as the requisite bare-naked-baby-on-the-bearskin-rug shots but not one shot of us standing before the ancient Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or skipping down the Avenue of the Dead.
It gradually dawns on me why there are so few still photos of our travels. Sometime in the mid 60’s my father abandoned his bulky Rolleiflex (oh how I wish we still had that one!) so that he could capture our every movement on Super 8. In fact, on the floor of the very closet that houses the small brown suitcase sits a battered cardboard box which at one time held 1/2 gallon jugs of Almaden Mt. White Chablis now straining to contain an overflow of home movies. Never mind that it has been literally decades since we have owned a functioning movie projector this box has crisscrossed the county in overheated moving vans, spent years gathering dust in garages far from climate controlled, finally landing in my closet. Mom had become the chronicler of everyday moments with her Brownie Instamatic, dad the movie maker while I became the journalist committing our travels to paper.
We returned from Europe the summer of ’63, adding the third and last child to the mix in 1964 (from the math it doesn’t appear mother smuggled another child into the country). Our family was now complete and the adventures would resume. I can say from a child’s perspective having a parent in academia was pretty ideal, not sure how it is from the adult perspective but we thought it was a great deal. Christmas and spring vacations off not to mention long summer breaks beckoning travel and adventure. Living just a few block from the university campus most of our friends enjoyed the same parental perks. No one thought it the least bit odd that families would often disappear for months at a time.
We spent the next few years learning to camp, exploring the east coast from Martha’s Vineyard to the Great Smokey Mountains. During this time we also learned our mild-mannered professor dad could cuss like a sailor who’s been out to sea too long. Trying to get the pop-tent set up was to say the least, trying. It is my understanding this new fangled self-erecting pop-up tent was supposed to make camping hassle free. Simply get yourself inside this deflated tent and either push or pull the lever situated in the top center of the dome until the tent magically erected itself. I can’t say for sure whether the lever was pushed or pulled as we were kept far off to the sides with our little hands over our ears so as not to hear the offending language coming from the deflated tent with dad trapped inside. Large swaths of my childhood was spent traveling from coast to coast camping but in 1968 my parents got the wild hair to hop a train with tow-headed children in tow and head to Mexico City for Christmas…