When Alanna Gleason was fourteen years old, all she wanted that year for Christmas was a map of the world. “Why would you want that?” everyone said after they asked what they could get her for a present. “So I can map out all of the places I’m going to visit one day,” she always replied.
She got a set of Corelle dishes instead. “You’re going to be leaving for college in a few years,” her parents told her. “You need to start gathering things up now.” That’s why they also gave her a coffee maker and a set of electric beaters that year. Over the next four Christmas mornings that followed, Alanna unwrapped a set of pots and pans, towels, drinking glasses, casserole dishes of various sizes, bowls, and a lasagna dish. Her birthday presents were just as practical.
When the time did come for her to move out, a part of her was grateful that her parents had planned so well in advance. Another part of her felt resentful because she had also noticed that the parents of the other kids she knew had gone out a few weeks beforehand and bought them the same stuff.
“How come they got real birthday and Christmas presents plus stuff for their first place, but I didn’t?” Alanna secretly asked herself. “Oh well, maybe Mom and Dad are saving up for a spectacular college graduation present, like a trip to Europe or something!”
They got her a coffee table and two end tables to go with the living room suite she had purchased herself.
“Screw it! I’m going to go out and buy my own damn map!” Alanna said. And that’s exactly what she did. The minute she got back to her apartment with it, she hung it up above her couch and started attacking it with push pins. France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, England, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Iceland, Fiji…she had so many push pins in that map of hers, she was sure the holes she put into the walls behind it would mean having to forfeit her security deposit. She didn’t care, not if she got to travel the world in the end.
But then she met Brad. An army brat, Brad had seen all he cared to see of the world thanks to his dad moving the family around every few years. Brad never wanted to pack another suitcase so long as he lived. That was okay with Alanna, at least that’s what she told herself. She had Brad – a loyal, loving, honest, hard-working man, and that beat traveling through a centuries old castle any day.
Nine years and three kids later, Alanna was still glad that she had chosen Brad over a stamped passport; just not “I wouldn’t trade a second of my life” glad. As much as she loved her family, she also still loved the idea of traveling. That wouldn’t be happening anytime soon, of course, what with the mortgage and the college funds to pay into each month, but one day. Tonight, though, the best she could do was run herself a bubble bath, lock the bathroom door, then indulge in a glass of wine and a plate of crackers topped with jalapeno honey.
She had never heard of jalapeno honey before this morning. The man selling it at the weekend farmer’s market told her that at first she would only taste the honey, but then in a few seconds the jalapenos would kick in. He let her try a sample so she would know what he meant. The instant the jalapenos took hold of her taste buds, she was transported to a whole other world.
“This must be what Spain tastes like,” she said to the honey maker. She closed her eyes and took another bite of the cracker upon which the honey sat and immediately saw herself sitting at a little bistro along the coast of Spain. She could smell the sea’s salt, hear its waves, and feel the breeze coming from its shores. There were no peanut butter lunches at this bistro, no sir, but there were plenty of tapas she could choose from and a wine list to die for. She snatched up a jar, along with a bottle of wine from the wine maker at the next stall over. Those two things, along with crackers she bought from the artisanal bread maker, came to $24.50.
Bath drawn, candles lit, kids settled in the rec room with a bowl of popcorn and their favourite movie on the big screen television, Alanna was ready to go back to the Spain that existed inside of her head.
“Well hello, Senor Matador!” she said to the sexy bullfighter her imagination conjured up after the first cracker. “Why yes, I would love to dance the tango with you,” she said after the second.
“Mommy? Who are you talking to?” a little voice cried out from the other side of the door. It was her youngest, Sophia.
“No one. I was just singing to myself,” she lied convincingly.
“Can I come in? I have to pee!”
Alanna’s trip to Spain was short that night, but she had hardly made a dent in the jar, which meant a return trip was always just a Saturday night away.