Stratford-upon-Avon, Ontario, Canada
If there’s a gene that prevents map reading, then I inherited mine from mom. Want to know what direction to go? Just ask either of us and then head away from our pointing fingers.
Going unfamiliar places is a challenge for my mom, but it doesn’t hold her back. When I was small, she’d brave the fear head-on by dressing Emily and me in pinafores, patent leather shoes and hair bows for a lunch date with dad. After a final check-in with my dad before leaving the house, the yellow cord of the kitchen phone twisted and swirled as she reviewed the detailed written instructions and map, we’d pile into the Mercury and point its big yellow hood south. As we approached downtown Cincinnati, we were hushed into silence as she concentrated on the exit signs in rapid succession and complicated lane markings. For a farm girl, the sights of one-way streets, pedestrian crossings and parallel parking made Cincinnati look like New York City.
In reality, we lived less than 15 minutes from the heart of downtown. With my dad behind the wheel, we frequently entered the city to visit museums and attend sporting events, concerts and festivals. The geography of Cincinnati made these trips even easier – drive on I-71 until you hit the skyscrapers. If you go over the Ohio River, you’ve gone too far. Downtown’s small grid of east-west numbered streets makes it one of the U.S.’s most accessible cities.
Despite how easy it should have been, the fear was real for mom each time she made a solo trip. But thanks to her bravery, we always arrived safely for our Skyline lunch, even if we missed a turn and had to circle the block.
I can imagine her relief when we would spot dad in a sea of downtown workers on the corner of 4th and Main Streets, flagging down the car with one hand while holding his tie down in the breeze with the other. As soon as my dad jumped into the driver’s seat and my mom slid to the passenger side of the bench, he assumed parking duties and Emily and I could talk again.
As I got older, trips with mom continued, but the places started getting more exotic: spring break in the Bahamas and Florida; Mom’s weekends in Athens, Ohio; girls’ weekends at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, Ontario; Washington, D.C. and even New York City. She braved all these places to be with me and although we always spend part of the trip a little bit lost, it’s also part of the fun.