Thinking about our recent travels, I remembered a story about my brother.
As my aunt tells it, he wasn’t quite two yet when he was staying with them for a week. Bewildered by his mother’s absence and unable to grasp any grown-up explanations for it, he resorted to looking for her in our aunt’s sewing notions box.

“Mama?” he asked, opening it, “Mama?”

My aunt tells it as if he’d just been curious, taking this to be one long game of hide-and-seek. But he must have been holding a great deal of heartbreak in check when Mama did not emerge from the notions box, though he’d asked so sweetly.

When we have a dead loved-one, we’re all in that bewildering position of the little one-year-old again who cannot grasp the absence. We may have superior means of rationalization now. But those cannot undo the fact that in our bodies it continues to feel all wrong. That in our minds we keep looking for little doors to open and call into.

This is at least how I explain to myself that “getting away from it all” just didn’t work on our latest trip.

Somehow every place we visited was that: Another little door. Another place that Mama is no longer alive in either, because death is that thorough at taking you out of this world.

It’s been two years since she died.

And I am 44.

So, though my eyes still expect to see her, I know they shouldn’t, no matter where I look.

But, regardless of how long it’s been and how old I am, that all-wrong feeling traveled with us – from the Grand Canyon to Vegas and all the way through the desert to the Pacific Ocean. It traveled inside of me who was sometimes silently asking these places: Mama? You there?

My “travels without” travelogue will continue with posts on:

– some blues I found out west

– the world’s biggest maw

– moonrise at sunset

– labors of love and/or memory and/or commerce like “ONE”

– planetary reminders

– one restless night in an Airstream

– beach pebbles

– Jan Brueghel’s vision of the ark

– the universe through Hubble

– a gallery of dead babies (and no jokes!)

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