I always had the best salt and flour maps. So did my sisters. And not just a little better than the other kids. Our salt and flour maps were the Harvard of relief maps compared to the community college crap my classmates tried to pass off.
Everyone else carried theirs in on little pieces of cardboard they had torn off the back of a construction paper pad. We had to be driven in to school on delivery day because our maps were on huge 2″ thick pieces of wood. Other kids were lucky if you could tell which country they were depicting. Ours were meticulously crafted, and hand painted with lots of detail. Teachers would call other teachers from down the hall to look at our maps.
What brings this back to me now? I currently have two salt and flour maps of the world drying on the kitchen counter. My mother is here and was helping the boys and their cousin Jesse yesterday as they pressed the dough into the molds. I just wanted to shove in a little dough, flip the molds onto some cardboard, and move on. But nope. Not with “Amma” here. We had to “do it right, Tara.”
And then I remember all of the late nights and long weekends working on the maps. They had to be perfect.
Oh my gosh. There it is again. My love-hate relationship with perfection: I loved having the best maps. I was proud of those maps. And I was proud of my mom. But I also hated that we couldn’t just quit after it was really, really good and already going to be better than any of the others. We kept going until it was the best map we could make. And I was never sure it was worth it.
But now I am. Even before Ellen Galinsky’s Mind In the Making, and her discussion of striving for a personal best, my mom knew that if you were going to bother to waste 12 cups of flour and 4 cups of salt, than you may as well spend the time to “do it right.”
The maps we made were not the masterpieces of my youth. But they are amazing relief maps that came out far better than they would have if I had been in charge.