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2018 Aug

Camels and Deserts

I became aware at a young age that the world was a big place—full of exotic, faraway lands. No, I didn’t travel much when I was little. My dad was in the Navy, and our family of eight spent vacations visiting relatives in upstate New York and Canada’s 1000 Islands.

OK, maybe that sounds exotic to some of you, but I’m talking about really faraway places—where people dress differently, speak unknown languages, and eat strange foods.

My dad was stationed in Morocco in Northern Africa in the 1950s before I was born. I remember my parents talking about the base, which was called Port Lyauty (rhymes with coyote), and how just the name itself sounded poetic and dreamy, evoking visions of camels and deserts, palm trees and colorful spices.

Maybe I heard stories about my parents’ time there, but what I remember most is a map of the region with images of nomads and palm trees painted on it. My dad framed it and hung it on the walls of the many houses we lived in. I have the map on a wall in my house now. It’s discolored and old and fragile, but the exotic images are still there: men wrapped from head to toe in robes called djellabas, their faces swathed in scarves so you barely see their eyes peeking through. I wondered what it would be like to wear clothes like that and ride on a camel and have sand in my ears all the time.

What’s hanging on your walls? The map that made such an impression on me as a child probably led me to develop a healthy curiosity about the world and a love for travel and writing: two passions that feed my soul. I once heard that Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother hung photos of cathedrals and magnificent buildings on the walls of her young son’s nursery. Maybe she sensed that one day her son would become one of our country’s most beloved architects, someone who still inspires the imagination of new generations of dreamers.

So maybe you should look at what’s hanging on your child’s walls. Decorating her room with posters and pictures of beautiful buildings and faraway places will have an impact on her thoughts, dreams, and imagination. Books do the same thing. Fill your bookshelves with books about the world and the diverse cultures who share our planet with us. Plan internationally inspired meals for your family and talk about the countries where the food originated: tacos from Mexico, lasagna from Italy, couscous from the Middle East, teriyaki from Japan, the list is endless.

Our children’s imaginations, their creativity, and their ability to function in a society that’s changing at warp speed—they all depend on us. As parents, we can do so much for our kids. When was the last time you took your child to the library, a cultural event, a planetarium, a painting class? Your child is precious, right? Make every moment of her childhood count. Get fired up about helping your child learn and grow and develop her imagination. Put your phone down and be the Super Mom or Super Dad you know you can be. Inspire your child. Starting. Right. Now.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com