Mapping Memories

Map Your Memories is the brainchild of fancy-pants Harvardite Becky Cooper. I was pointed her way thanks to a Hairpin article about her recent book, Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers, in which she got random people, famous and un-, to map their memories of Manhattan. Some of them are true works of art; some of them are excellent stories; some are just strange or sad.

Which reminded me of a conversation I had not too long ago, in which I pondered making a personal-disaster map of Chicago. This dashed line is the route I took to work the day I knew I was going to get laid off, listening to a playlist I’d made the night before when I’d been tipped off to what the day would bring, a playlist I’d named “Tough as Nails.” X marks the hotel that I stayed at the night after my husband told me he “needed some space.” That dark scribble is where I stood next to the train tracks and cried on the phone in shock with a friend I was too far away to hug. These are the memories that make a grid of buildings a real city.

But there are the good ones, too. I could have a map where a curlicue wraps around the spot where the boy I loved more than anything told me that when he was with me he felt like a fountain of fireworks. Where a jaunty zig-zag traces the street I strutted down the day I accepted my new job offer and then got a dream volunteer assignment within an hour. Where a tiny checkmark shows the downtown hotel where I did my first real interview with a real author.

I’m not much of an artist, but that’s what Google’s for.

Make one of your own. Share in the comments. Let’s see what our cities are really made of.