We wandered around the library looking for an atlas or some other book with a map in it. I was scanning a shelf full of books on each of the states, when a wave from Susan got my attention. I wound my way around a bookshelf and saw what she’d found. In a corner of the library, a rack of pull down maps was mounted on the wall. We pulled down two world maps and a map of Europe before we realized the bottom edge of each map was labeled. Susan flipped through, found the U.S. map, and pulled it down with a flourish just as Cassie and Anne walked up behind us.
Maybe it was because it was so much bigger than the tiny maps in our history textbook, but standing in the corner of the library looking up at the wall map, the enormity of our country began to sink in. Cassie decided to illustrate that fact by putting her finger on the map near San Francisco and then moving it eastward, making painfully slow progress while sputtering car sounds came out of her mouth. She’d barely made it to the edge of California when Susan stepped up beside her and pushed her off to the side. Our laughter drew another stern look from the librarian.
I stepped forward, close enough to the map that it filled my vision. There were no roads on the map, but my eyes traced an imaginary route through the states: California, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York. Or a string of other states if we took a route farther north or south.
There was so much country, so much space. It didn’t seem possible that all those places, all those states and cities and towns were like my own. When I thought about all the news that weighed us down each day, all the issues that lingered in our minds, it seemed like they couldn’t possibly be spread out across the entire country. There must be places where life just went on day to day and people didn’t worry about the war or the draft, where people walked down the same sidewalk no matter what color their skin was. If there weren’t places like that, then surely our country could use a few kids driving across it in a van, spreading peace and love and happiness.
I was scared. I couldn’t imagine being away from my parents, couldn’t imagine being on the opposite side of the country from both of them. I couldn’t imagine being gone for an entire summer. But I decided at that moment, looking at the map of our country, that I absolutely wanted to go, that I would find parts of our country where there was just a little bit more happiness, or if I didn’t, I would make them happier by being there.
I moved my face in close to the New York part of the map. The town of Woodstock was too tiny to be labeled, and I didn’t even really know where in New York State it was. But I let a patch of green in the middle of the state fill my eyes and I imagined three days of peace and love and music.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish