I grew up in the home of a one-legged artist who didn't get to travel the world like his brothers did. But because he always subscribed to The Geographic, we traveled the world together and I knew early that I was just a small part of a much bigger, fascinating world.
I grew up in a house with lots of art supplies, paintings and drawings, the yellow trimmed magazine arriving every month full of photos of far away places, and maps of those places. We always had National Geographic maps pinned to the walls...of The United States, of the world and its many blank places and mysterious names and countries I could only imagine. I learned later that those same maps were crucial to Ike and the other Allies in "The War" as they were planning the invasion of Europe only months after I was born.
I've been a lover of maps ever since. I can sit down and unfold a road map, or a map of a country and take a trip, or plan one. I know how small I am, and have never lost a sense of wonder, thanks to The Geographic. I don't need or want GPS and a voice in a car telling me where to turn. People today who rely on that are terribly isolated, as though they are the center of the universe. The Geographic and its maps taught you differently, and instilled a desire to travel and discover.
My Dad collected Geographics and they piled up in the house. He even had a special ash bookcase built to house them, and I spent hours looking at them, and then rearranging them so they would be in order, month after month, year after year.
Oh yes, I enjoyed looking at the photos of the bare-breasted African and other dark-skinned women in the articles from around the world, but they didn't interest me as much as other kids because my Dad's paintings and drawings of nudes were common in my house. But just maybe that accounts for my intense interest in specific female anatomy today?
And I remember Dad starting to search for old Geographics, from its early years in the beginnings of the 20th Century. I remember jokes about collecting the magazine. Dad had one cartoon of a unclothed couple in bed, who obviously been causing quite a bit of vibration--I was too young to catch it at the time. It showed a hole in the ceiling and a bunch of Geographics in the middle of their bed.
"You and your damned Geographics," the wife was saying. Yes, the magazines ended up stored like that around the house, in the attic. I have boxes of them in the garage--but not in the attic.
Eventually, Dad managed to collect a complete set from 1920 on, which continued up until his death in December, 1973 in San Angelo, Texas. I had started collecting them when I got married in 1966. When Dad died, my brother and I went to San Angelo and rented a trailer and carried them back to his home in Lubbock. He has most of them...still stored in a garage or somewhere.
They were sacred...places to travel, to imagine. Looking at the old advertising was an adventure in American history alone. I can remember being shocked by our teachers bringing the Geographic to class, with examples cut out of them to show.
It was a sin, a heresy, blasphemy, to cut up a National Geographic. They were part of who we were.
As with the Geographic, this story is not over.