She is 5 years old, skipping across the parking lot with a paper map squeezed beneath her arm and against her body like it is a top-secret document. She shakes wild curly hair out of her face and reminds the group she has the map the park ranger handed us on entry to the state park. She shouts this with an air of importance as though being in possession of a map will elevate her standing among her older cousins.
A map is a novelty to a 5-year-old; built-in dashboard GPS navigation is not.
In-car navigation is still somewhat of a novelty to me; a map is not.
Ten of us cross the parking lot and regroup near trailheads.
She shakes the map loose from its folds and it billows like a parachute. She wrangles it under control, studies it intently, traces lines with her finger and yells, “Trail 7! Let’s take Trail 7!”
“Trail 7? What’s on Trail 7?” the group murmurs.
“Look at Trail 7, Grandma!” she demands.
“I can’t see Trail 7 because I can’t find my glasses,” I holler over the wind.
Isn’t that how all good navigators respond?
Lewis says to Clark, “Well, we’re lost again, and I can’t find my glasses!”
Clark says to Lewis, “Where did you last see them?”
Lewis snaps, “If I knew where I last saw them, I wouldn’t be looking for them!”
The tiny navigator points to the top of my head, indicating the location of my glasses, just as a strong gust of wind rips one side of the map from her two-handed grasp.
We jump and lunge and flail against the wind, and finally the cumbersome map is once again under our command. I began studying the map, which is somewhat of a challenge as the dotted lines marking the trails are very faint. What’s more, I need to find our position in relation to the parking lot, but I am having trouble finding it.
“You do know you’re growing up in the digital age where everybody does everything on their phones, right?” I ask.
She squints her eyes and glares. It’s a menacing glare, even from a half-pint.
“I don’t have a phone,” she deadpans.
The kid wants to use the map.
I point out that we are standing by the start of Trail 1. “I’ve been on Trail 1 before,” I say. “It’s wonderful.”
“But I want Trail 7.”
“Well, we’re nowhere close to Trail 7.”
Another eye squint.
“Trail 1 has a suspension bridge,” I say.
The glare softens.
“And it takes us through a deep canyon carved into enormous rocks.”
Her eyes widen.
I lean close to let her in on the best part. “And we might see a teeny tiny waterfall.”
She’s all in.
“Tell you what, next time we come we’ll do Trail 7. OK?”
She relents and relinquishes Trail 7. But not the map.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.