Feeble Knees

Friday, May 06, 2005


I'm dreaming of jet engines, gleaming cities and ancient ruins. This morning a family member wrote to say her trip to Beijing is definitely on, and I'm just a little jealous.

Okay, I'm a lot jealous!

As it is, I've been reading about Michelle's trip to Australia with great interest. And then there's always something interesting going on in Messy's corner of the world, which to me always seemed like one of the most exotic places on earth. No doubt about it, I'm having a serious attack of wanderlust.

Perhaps it's due to my impending foray into the world of motherhood; maybe I'm craving one last crazy escapade to destination anywhere. Don't get me wrong - for the first time in probably sixteen years it's great to finally feel at home, rooted and stable in one place - safe, happy and content. Yet the fascination, the draw of the unknown and undiscovered still has the power to captivate my thoughts.

Maybe it goes back to the little brass pyramids, exotic little perfume bottles, or any number of little treasures my dad brought home from the four corners of the earth. All the while I was growing up, he was frequently off somewhere across the sea. The large map in our family room was stuck full of brightly colored pins that marked all the cities he'd been. Whenever he'd travel someplace new, I wanted to be the one to stick the pin to mark it. Alone, I'd gaze at it, wonderingly tracing the distance from here to the latest there, running my fingertip over the smooth plastic red and yellow spheres on the heads of the marking pins. Anticipation would build through the morning on the days he was scheduled to arrive home. What would he bring us from Seoul? Would we get more scarves from Paris? Or those beautiful fancy little perfumed soaps and real British tea from Harrod's? The little brass pyramids he'd brought back from Cairo sat on our mirrored coffee table in the living room for years. I used to absentmindedly trace my fingernails over the brick patterns stamped into each smooth cold side, turning them over and over in my hands, lost in thought.

Back then it'd take a day or two for his pictures to come back from the Fotomat, then we'd have detailed images to fill in the outlines of all his stories. I'd gaze at the pictures for hours: temples in Japan, The Hague, Greek ruins, Versailles, Buckingham palace, St. Peter's basilica, dark, mysterious Egyptian bazaars, and Ooh la la! NUDE sunbathers on the Cote d'Azur! On rainy Saturdays, he'd sit at our old kitchen table and carefully trim and paste them all into big vinyl binders with handwritten notes in the margins. Sometimes he'd draw little arrows to label and highlight particular points of interest (like the blonde beach girl carelessly doffing her bikini bottoms!) He was renowned for his knack for cobbling together fold-out panoramic views of distant coastlines, bustling cityscapes and sacred ruins. The carefully spliced, taped, and folded photographic panorama is his trademark. It was good hobby, saved up for rainy days at home.

I've never been to most of the places my dad was fortunate enough to see, but then I've taken at least one trip he never dreamed of taking. I remember the day I told my parents where and when I was going. Mum was not too keen on it at all. Dad just smiled this barely perceptible smile. He understood. I had his blessing. Years later we both still have a fondness for retelling our traveling tales to bored family members and hapless strangers alike, the gleam in our eyes undiminished by the passage of time or ordinariness of our current lives. Now I realize it was dad who gave me the bug, this fascination with the world and everyone in it. It's all his fault.

So my heart will be winging its way only vicariously to Beijing in a few weeks. Meanwhile I'll eagerly devour updates from Australia (though I'll still be fascinated by Michelle's everyday observations when she returns to life in South Africa). And I'll dream of having a coffee in Kuala Lumpur with Liz someday. Someday!
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