Growing up, there were two things I loved – adventures and writing. Some of my most cherished memories were when my dad would get a rare day off from work, load up the five kids into our 1979 Buick station wagon, and hit the road. My dad’s favorite places were the beach, a good espresso bar, and the city. I have sweet memories of the salty air on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and the feeling of being so small as I held his hand while looking up at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I loved to be anywhere with him. I also loved when my dad would come home from work and give me a fresh notebook that he had picked up for me. I would write and draw on both sides of every page, filling it end to end.
My daughter has a flashier childhood than I had. Most of my days were spent playing street ball or cops and robbers outside with my brothers. There was a lot of imagination and not as much “material.” Kylie’s world is filled with American Girl dolls, play-dates (that are actually scheduled), and pretty much an app for everything on her iPad. Don’t get me wrong, she loves to play outside and use her imagination to make robots out of old paper towel rolls and empty boxes, but for the most part everything seems more elaborate nowadays. Even the way we store memories of our childhood is different. Mine exist in 3 x 3 photos in a shoebox stashed in a closet at my parent’s house, whereas Kylie’s can be cropped, hashtagged and posted instantly.
A few years ago I decided to give my daughter the one relic from my childhood that hopefully will never go out of style. A notebook. A wide-ruled, marble composition notebook. No frills. Just paper. I wanted her to have a place to write down or draw memories of her childhood. Although this could easily be done online now (Shutterfly does own me), I wanted her to know the beauty of putting pencil to paper; to have her own words to look back on, old school style, where you actually turned pages instead of swiping a screen. And thus, Kylie’s travel journal was born.
Just like my dad, I have been known to pile the kids in the car for a random Tuesday adventure. We might jet out to Boston to ride the T or swing by the baseball fields at UConn just to let my kids run the bases. Any chance we get we go sit by the ocean in Rhode Island, and my happy place is pulling off the FDR into the upper east side of Manhattan. Day trips are my reset button and my kids make good wingmen. Sometimes we play hooky from school (don’t tell Daddy) and sometimes we go on a summer Saturday. The trips don’t always have to be far or fancy. I love to go off the beaten path. Like in Newport, where I take them to find this little tunnel along the Cliff Walk that has the words Love is Life inscribed on it. We’ve gone to New Hampshire to pick pumpkins and to Brooklyn just to have a slice of pizza. Some adventures are even in our own backyard – like a doll picnic with friends at a local park, a walk through Great Pond forest after school, or a canoe ride on a nearby lake. Adventure is not always about the destination but in spontaneously choosing to get out of the ordinary.
Kylie has always been game for adventures with me, and her journal has come along for the ride. She takes it with her whether it is a trip to the zoo, mini golf, or on a long drive to Narragansett Beach. At first, she would write a line or two about the trip, and sometimes draw a picture or tape in a ticket stub. Soon, she began asking me to print out pictures to go with her entries, and then more lined paper so she could add more details to her memory. Over time, the pages became tattered and the binding loosened around the seams, but it still made every trip.
As a teacher, as well as a mom, it warms my heart to notice the changes in her writing. How fragments became sentences and how sentences turned into paragraphs. Eventually she stopped writing her letters backwards and there started to be capital letters and punctuation in the right places. It’s a little time capsule of not only our travels but of how she is learning. I love to see what she comes up with to share as her favorite part and the time she takes to record her thoughts. I love how she keeps it hidden from us so she can debut it with a “big reveal.” Her journal is filled with memories and smiles and her own viewpoint. To me that is magic, and far better than any status update or tweet.
Now that her first journal is filled up with beach sand stuck along the edges and the weight of pictures on each page, it only made sense to pick up a fresh notebook for her and see what adventure awaits next…