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The girl-child will be 14 years old in less than a month.

I’ve given her countless gifts over the years. Not all of them tangible.

Every year for 5 years, once she started Kindergarten, I would take her on a “Mommy/Daughter” trip. Just the two of us. Usually only for a night or a weekend. Usually right before school resumed after summer break.

We’ve been all over the state of Mississippi. 

Circumstances had put those back-to-school trips on the backburner in recent years, so, for her last birthday, I rounded up some of our favorite cousins and we set off on a road trip

I love, love, love to travel. See different things. Hear different sounds. Smell different smells. 

It makes me feel bold. Courageous. Alive.

Maybe it’s because I never intended to live in this same, familiar place all my life. Maybe it’s because I just need to break out of my rut more often. Maybe it’s because it sparks my desire to write in a way like no other. 

I just love to see other places. 

I wonder sometimes if I’m just using my daughter as an excuse to take these mini-getaways. I wonder if she enjoys them as much as I do. With a teenager, one can never know for sure. They say one thing with their words, but sometimes their resting bitch face says another. (I say that in jest….mostly….and only because she would admit it herself and also because she got it from me.)

But I do think she enjoys our trips. Now that she’s taken up photography, it’s even more incentive for me to try and find interesting places for us to experience together. So, for the 14th birthday, I have planned another girls road trip. 

This year, we’re going north. I won’t post spoilers yet, but I’m hella excited. As much as living in the south can be a pain in the ass,  we do have some really great road trip destinations in all directions and, for that, I am thankful.

I told Reagan recently that I could give her money, or stuff. And I’ve done that. Still do that. But when your kid’s birthday is 3 weeks from Christmas, it can be challenging to make sure they don’t feel cheated. I mean, mama ain’t made outta money.

I told her, that especially the older she gets, more than anything, I want to give her memories. Those moments that comfort an anxious or distressed heart. The good times that nothing can ever diminish. Because good memories are like an anchor for someone with a penchant for cynicism and melancholy. 

I’ve lost people that I loved. And this time of year magnifies that in my mind about 1,000%. But my good memories steady me. 

I’ve been hurt by people that I loved. Deeply scarred. But it is my good memories with them that steady me.

I’ve lost touch with some people, grown distant through time and circumstance, but my good memories with them keep us connected and allow us to reconnect whenever opportunity arises.

Memories are the Unwrappable Gifts I want to give my daughter. 

They don’t have to be travel-related, but sometimes the things that break us out of our routines are the easiest to call to mind. The easiest to hold onto.

I’d be lying if I said I only do all of this for her. 

My own anxious heart, my own cynical spirit needs change of scenery. Often. And I need and want my own memories for anchors to steady me.

I have a bucket list of places and things I want to have in my physical memory….

The Aurora Borealis

The East Coast of the U.S. from Florida to Maine

The mountains of Montana

The untouched landscape of Alaska

The Pacific Ocean

The Great Lakes

And that’s just in America, and just on a large scale. There are thousands of smaller places I want to see and experiences I want to have. 

And I think, ultimately, what’s comforting to me about the change of scenery, is this:

My world, as I know it, isn’t all there is.

The frustrations of daily life, the horrors we hear and read about every day, the mundane ruts we find ourselves in….

There is more. There is other. There is beauty.

And I don’t think you have to travel to find it, but sometimes we need to wander to find what is eluding us in the familiar.

And sometimes the best gifts are the unwrappable kind.