This time last year I was off on the greatest adventure of my life so far. I learned so much while I was in Switzerland. Not only did I become proficient and confident in my second language, but I also grew as a person and saw a part of the world that took my breath away. It gave me a yearning for adventure, a love of airports and a joy of stumbling through conversations as I force my tongue to make new sounds. I know wanderlust is an overused term but this was my view of it. This is my wanderlust. I want to truly experience the world not just see it.
I stood at the foot of the mountain pictured on the wrapper of a Toblerone chocolate bar.
It’s one of the most well-known sites in Switzerland
my camera roll is full of photos
but as I stood in it’s shadow
I come to the realization
don’t do justice.
And I remember thinking.
God. Please make this stick in my mind. So I can go back and play this day over and over like a home video, the film rolling through my brain, the images tumbling clearly as if I was seeing them for the first time. Please. Tattoo these memories, engrave them on the inside of my skull.
I want to remember
I know now
I don’t want to be a tourist
with nothing but a few photos of a
half remembered family vacation and a sunburn that disappears after a week
want a backpack
I want upside down maps
I want language barriers and
I want native speakers with not a word of English on their tongues
I want dirt roads
and I want to make the kind of friends who welcome you into their home
A stranger one day
and a friend
still five years later
I want to get lost in unknown cities
and find Sam in the process.
The world is wide
and it can be scary
and I know I won’t get to see it all
But I want to collect as much of it as I can
like the smooth round pebbles I used to pick up as a kid
I will slip memories into my pocket and feel
their weight as I walk,
remembering brown faces with crooked smiles and eyes
as wise as the mountains,
warm spicy scents that burn my nose
in the best possible way
I will pretend my skin still carries the dust of a country I miss
it’s long since washed away.
And when I have children I will teach them
to carry backpacks
and draw their own maps
and let them get lost in the backyard to find themselves.
When I have grandchildren
I will reach into a pocket
and pull out a stone.
Worn smooth as sea glass from the rubbing of fingers over the years
I will hold it like the Aboriginal chiefs
hold a totem pole to help remember the details of a legend
I will speak
let the memories rise up
smells and sights from long ago faded coming rushing back like
a river thawing in spring
I will tell them about standing in the shadow of the Matterhorn
I will tell them about a song sung round a campfire in a language I barely understood
I will tell them how I sang anyway
I will explain that I found part of Sam in a village in the south of Thailand
and another piece of her in the sand on the beaches of Peru
I will explain how bits of her were hidden in places I hadn’t expected
like the hallway of my high school
and a box
in the corner of my mother’s basement.
I will tell them I found Sam spread all over the earth
like Isis found Osiris in Egyptian times,
I will tell them to get lost
When they ask to see pictures I don’t have, I will describe
the smile of a girl whose name has long been lost and buried in the filing cabinet of my mind
but who’s smile I will never forget
or the sound of a crowded street, people rushing about , strangers
who were really just friends I hadn’t yet met
I will describe the smell of an ocean.
I will give them a Toblerone bar
I will tell them to make friends with everyone they meet
The world is wide
I know I won’t see all of it but
I will collect cities and people and languages and love and I will hold them close in my pocket
And I will use them as touchstones
God. Please. Make this stick in my mind like a home video, I will rewind the tape over and over and pray I don’t wear it out. Help me to decipher the carvings I once made but now can barely recognize. Please
I will discover
I will remember