Our oldest son has always loved maps. One of his gifts, thanks to his place on the autism spectrum, is the ability to recall directions to and from any place he’s ever been and any place he’s ever studied on a map.
One summer, when he was 4, maybe 5, I spent an evening or two online, signing up for a free state map from any state tourism board that offered one. Each arrival was a double gift – mail addressed specifically to him and an addition to his ever-growing collection, which topped out at about 44 state maps. Many a night, our oldest fell asleep with a map spread out on his bed (sometimes underneath him). You’d think years of dealing with these paper monstrosities would make me good at folding them, but, to this day, I still can’t get one back in its original condition.
For years, the movie Cars focused his map obsession on Route 66 and it soon became something our whole family enjoyed exploring. After driving half of the Missouri stretch of that famous highway, our appreciation for Route 66 included a decent collection of memorabilia and we surprised our boys by making that the “theme” of our main bathroom. My mother made the shower curtain out of fabric we found that was really too narrow for the project, but you’d never know after she pieced it together. We used some of our favorite postcards in a collage frame and gradually added a few wall hangings we found in thrift stores and online. Almost six years after starting this project, we finally added my favorite component: an actual map.
Our sweet little starter home needed lots of TLC when we first moved in, more than 12 years ago. The biggest eyesore (in my opinion) is the one we’ve avoided dealing with the longest – the banged-up, dated, cheap wooden cabinets. Both bathrooms and the kitchen have them.
Since all the doors and baseboards in our home match those cabinets, we figured changing any of them meant changing all of them, so we put it off. But the bane and the blessing of under-employment is the time it gives you to really look at things – both literally and metaphorically. I decided I’d looked at that ugly wood long enough.
With my oldest son’s blessing and assistance, I used three maps from his collection to display the largest section of Route 66, through Illinois and Missouri, and into Arizona.
My original plan was to highlight Route 66 by stitching along it, using a needle and thread. I’ve seen dozens of projects on Pinterest using this technique, but let me save you some time and tears – there’s no way actual maps were used for those projects.
They must have printed their maps on sturdier stuff or hired tiny elves, who grew up stitching gossamer wings, because map paper is far too fragile. Honestly, I didn’t cry about the project not working, just out of fear I’d ruined my only map. Thankfully, Route 66 weaves through seven states, giving me plenty of wiggle room for some trial and error.
I must add that rather-be-safe-than-sorry me is pretty darn pleased with how the red paint perked up the cabinets. Remember, I’m the person who waited until my 40s to try blue nail polish, so red was a bit of a leap for me and my fear of making a choice even worse than the yucky wood grain is probably 90-percent of what fueled my avoidance of this project. Boy, was I wrong.
Next up: the kitchen cabinets!
If you’re curious about the entire project or just enjoy peeking into other people’s bathrooms, here’s a gallery of pics from our Route 66 Restroom. Click on any of the images for a larger version.