Things I love: Maps

I have always loved maps. I love examining the lines and dots and details. I love to follow a trip along a piece of paper with my finger. If  I read a book or hear a news story set in an unfamiliar location, I feel like I can’t really understand it until I’ve looked it up on a map. Whenever I visit a theme park or a museum or a historic site, I immediately gravitate to the map or floorplan, matching up each new area with the corresponding section of the guide, figuring out where I am, what’s the best route from point A to point B. And now that many places have maps available online, I can enjoy these thrills from the comfort of my own home.

I can actually remember the exact moment when I realized that maybe my love of maps was not shared with the rest of the world. I was nine or ten and I was with a group of friends sharing what we’d received for Christmas. When I got to “and this really amazing atlas..” there was a sudden silence in the crowd. Someone asked, “ewww, your parents gave you an atlas for Christmas?” I tried to clarify; “oh, its really cool, it was just published this year so it’s got all the new countries in Eastern Europe………and it’s got tonnes of demographic maps…………and these…….graphs……and….um………..uh……..Hey, did I tell you about this cool stuffed puppy I got? It’s got a collar with a tag that has real lip gloss inside!” And right there and then I quietly filed my love of maps and atlases into the ever growing list of “things about me that I shouldn’t necessarily share if I want to seem normal”.

Of course, once I survived high school, I was able to open up that little file and stop caring so much about appearing normal and now I can buy any map or atlas I want. And in our house cartography factors heavily in the decorating. Here are a few of my favourites.

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Personalized map of the world. My husband gave me this map when the kids were babies and it’s currently up in our living room. He ordered it from one of those catalogues you find on airplanes that consist mostly of things you could never imagine anyone ever actually ordering. I’m not quite sure what that says about my taste in gifts. Anyway, it come with a plaque with “The Travels of the _____ Family” and colour coded pins to mark where you’ve been and where we’re going. My only complaint that the number of pins seems ridiculously small.

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Scratch off map. I received this one for Christmas a couple years ago and I decided to use it to mark off the places I’ve been, with and without the kids. It’s not in a fancy frame or anything, and I ended up putting it on the only free wall I had at the time, next to the sink in my bathroom. The upside of this location is that the kids often look at it while they’re brushing their teeth and my daughter especially likes asking me to point out where we’ve been, where we’re going, where her friends and family lives, etc.

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City Prints. These are artistic, two toned graphics of world cities that beautifully combine maps with art. We currently have two up in our daughter’s room beside her bed. It’s a bit of a sneaky way to put a map on her wall without it screaming, “there’s a map on my wall instead of a picture!”

Of course, if she grows up to be like me, someday she may demand we replace all her pictures with maps so she can study them whenever she wants. Hey, a mom can dream, can’t she?

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