Most of us take along a camera when we travel. Where as in the past the daunting task (and expense) of carting film off to the photo lab for processing helped us ration the number of times we hit “click,” the advent of digital photography encouraged us to capture the moment many times over. Our digital folders are full of images from landmarks, temper tantrums, and native flora, more than we can ever appreciate unless downloaded into a digital frame that documents the trips in our family rooms.
Tonight’s TMOM Twitter party about Eat, Pray, Love got me thinking about the mental memories – those moments and images during travel captured in our brains that trigger an emotional response or connection years later – that cannot be downloaded into a digital frame or placed on a holiday card. These are those pictures that we play in our heads as we get older, remembering times when we were young, people who have passed, and places that perhaps created in us an understanding of who we are or helped us better comprehend our tiny little place in this big, big world.
There are the moments that become habit no matter how old we get. For example, when I was young my family took an annual trek to Massachusetts to visit my dad’s side of the family. While vacation time there meant swimming in my aunt’s pool, hanging out with my good friend Monica, or riding horses, what stands out most is the image of the gold dome on the Connecticut state capitol building in Hartford, the darkness of the tunnel on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in New Haven, and the up and down windows at the state border in Union, CT. The dome because my parents would point it out to us each time we passed over the Charter Oak Bridge; I remember it glistened in the sun’s light. The tunnel because back then it felt so looooooong back then. Finally the windows because on the way TO Massachusetts my father would roll them down so he could finally “breathe fresh air” while my Connecticut-born mom would roll them up. For the return trip the actions were vice versa.
To this day I can’t travel through Hartford without glancing over at the gold dome; still think about the long tunnel as I drive through it on the way to the dentist; and still have an urge to breathe in – or hold my breath – when passing over the Connecticut-Massachusetts state border.
I realize there are many moments like this I have captured in my mind during my travels that could never be served justice in kodachrome or pixels. The full moon rising over the southern end of Australia while camping on the edge of the ocean, so big it looked like it would swallow us whole. Playing basketball as a teen in a local park with students from the International School of Paris where my sister taught. The rest areas along the Massachusetts Turnpike where we ate many of our meals last year while traveling back and forth to the hospice in Needham where that same sister died last year from cancer.
Snapshots that capture moments in time that conjure memories so strong it’s as if we have lived them over again.