This isn’t going to be a list of things I want to do before I die. I never contemplate my own death, so there’s no point in it. Once upon a time, I had a list of things I’d like to do someday which is quite a different matter. Oddly, as time has passed, I have found myself cutting things off that list. Things that once seemed more or less essential to my contentment with life.
Take nearly every college girl’s dream of traveling to Europe and seeing Paris, Rome, Vienna– all those romantic places. I figured that, once I got past the Atlantic Ocean, it would be duck soup to get to all of them– maybe even London as long as I was so close. (Well, closer than I was in Iowa, anyway). Not being a whiz at geography, I had a somewhat distorted idea of the layout of most of the world and once firmly believed there was a state near Louisiana or Mississippi named Dixie. Well, people talked about it a lot, it must be down there somewhere.
As of about 2001, I have had no more desire to see Paris or any of those other places I mentioned. You see, there are wonderful travel programs on television and I absolutely hate to travel. For one thing, I get car-sick unless I am driving, and I don’t think they’d let me in the cockpit on that transatlantic flight. So forget it.
When Interstate 80 first went through Iowa City, I was fascinated with the idea of one highway going clear across the nation. Think about it– just get on 80 and go. Never mind a road map, how could a person get lost? Since I tend to get lost in parking lots, I-80 seemed like a miracle. I vowed that, someday, I would drive from one end of it to the other. Now, when I consider all that time sitting in a bucket seat, all those franchised meals and self-service gas stations, bypassing all the interesting little towns, skirting the bustling cities, just cruising through acres and acres of territory and never meeting the inhabitants, that beeline trip across the country seems a waste of time– and gas.
I wanted to haunt art museums and attend operas and opening nights on Broadway. But then there was all that standing in line and hiking a quarter mile across a parking lot in high-heeled shoes. Over time, those prospects lost their appeal. No thank you.
There was once a time when I thought it would be great to visit most of the national parks, historical sites, and places where my ancestors once lived. For starters, my parents and their parents moved around a lot. I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for schools they attended, farms where they lived, cemeteries where their great-grandparents were buried. Besides, I get lost easily and could well end up traveling in places no one I was related to ever even heard of. My husband was good at finding his way, and I once hoped that one day we could travel together, see some important places, view some beautiful scenery.
Much to my dismay, the guy I married turned out to be one of those people who only think in a straight line from here to there. His idea of sightseeing proved to be of the drive-by school. Gas stations and truck stops provided food, restrooms and gas; no need for anything else. Once, in Missouri, he slowed the car for a moment, waved off to the right, and announced, “There’s the Truman Library,” as we whizzed past. I enjoyed similar views of the Space Needle in Seattle and Mount Rushmore.
My mother had an uncle who lived in Alaska and, since it was a part of the United States (although it seemed far off and exotic) I thought that someday I’d manage to get there. He wrote of the wonderful valley where he lived near Fairbanks, where gardens grew at astonishing rates during summer, producing carrots as big as iced tea glasses and cabbages that filled a bushel basket. As a gardener, I envisioned tomatoes the size of pumpkins and rhubarb you could use for fence posts. I wanted to see that place. Until, that is, the farmers markets became common. At that point, the idea of all that planting, weeding, digging and harvesting sounded like a lot of work. I still think that Alaska is neat, but I can see the best of it on television. And once they decided I have to have a passport to get there, I lost interest. I have definitely convinced myself that there are two rules about travel that I will observe conscientiously. One is that I will not go anyplace where I need a passport. The other is that I won’t consider any undertaking that requires me to buy new clothes. And who ever heard of taking a cruise in the Greek islands, a European vacation, a junket to the Caribbean, or even a weekend in Las Vegas without at least one new outfit or pair of shoes? The idea is unthinkable.