A boomer goes back… and it’s all still fresh

If we have boomer memories to share with our children, we’re lucky. And hopefully, so are they. Barbara Winard of Jersey City, New Jersey, has carried a wonderful memory with her for decades now, and finally got to share it with her daughter.

I met Joy in the late 1970s at a new job in New York City. She was about 15 years older than I, and she fit the bill for both a dear mother and a dear friend.

Joy (left) with Barbara in the early 1980s.

My own mother basically had disapproved of my direction in life, which usually took me far away. My friends were never interested in going where I needed to go. But Joy had done it all and seen it all, and was enthusiastic about my journey too. She and her husband had traveled the world and done it the hard way: cheaply and with maximum rugged movement.

Barbara on the cliff at Cala Mesquida from the 1980s.

In the early 1980s, Joy invited me to visit her vacation home on the Mediterranean island of Menorca. A few years later I did it, flying from Barcelona without even telling her exactly when or where I was arriving. Clutching a bag of New York City bagels as a gift, I headed for a phone booth to ask her to pick me up. But there was no phone book or, as I then saw, a phone. I didn’t have Joy’s address, so I wandered the streets of Mahon, Menorca’s capital, looking for a bank that was open (to no avail… it was a Spanish holiday). I ate the bagels.

Finally I realized that I had a letter from Joy with the name of her town on it. I convinced a taxi driver to drive me there, and I recognized her house from a photograph of it on the wall of her New York home (the photo is now on my wall).

The beach and cliff in 2018.

The rest of my time there was filled Joy’s warmth and a houseful of her friends. I remember exploring the megalithic monuments dotting the roads, hanging out at a bar in Mahon where we drank and sang, taking motorcycle rides through the hills, and walking down the hill to a pristine beach.

Thirty years later, my daughter and I talked about traveling to a Spanish-speaking country so that she could practice the language. All at once I knew that I would bring her to Menorca. I wanted to show her what I had loved when I was her age and to pay homage to a generous friend now long gone.

Daughter Jana on the beach in 2018.

Things had changed on the island— more tourists and expats, more vacation homes and new buildings. But the standing stones still stand, the pine-studded cliffs still overlook the beaches, the 13th Century church in the Old Town of Ciutadella still looms, the ruins from the island’s Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic past still dot the island.

I’ve always wanted to see new places and experience new cultures, but I never had realized the potency of revisiting places populated with the ghosts of loved ones from the past. I knew then that travel makes everything fresh, even if it is a repeat of the past. As T.S. Eliot wrote, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Jana and Barbara with house in background in 2018.

As I stood with my daughter near Joy’s house on the cliffs overlooking a pristine beach, the world seemed all new.

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