I have a very clear memory of the first time I ever heard about Tibet.
I was very young, probably seven or eight years old. I was eating supper with my family at a restaurant called Mammy's Shanty in Atlanta, Georgia.
Yes, I know the name "Mammy's Shanty" is not politically correct—but this was back in the 1950s, before anyone had ever heard of political correctness, and Mammy's Shanty was a place where we went on special occasions. For weekly Sunday lunches, my family's restaurant of choice was the Pig 'N' Whistle. At Mammy's Shanty, I remember the fried chicken and the pie; at the Pig, the cream of chicken soup. But I digress.
Of course my parents were there, and I remember my Aunt Amelia was there. I'm not sure if my grandparents were there, but my father's aunt and uncle, Unkie and Buddy, were there. So there was a fairly big group of us, all sitting at a large, round table.
Someone mentioned the "abominable snowman." I had never heard of this person before, so I had to ask. He was a large, hairy man, I was told, not really human but not really ape-like, either. He lived in a place called Tibet. Where was Tibet? A high mountain range at the roof of the world.
I'm not sure why this conversation made such an impression on me, but it did. I remember not sleeping at all that night, or sleeping very fitfully. My thoughts were filled with childlike terror at the thought of the abominable snowman, but it wasn't so much the snowman who kept me awake—it was the image of a place with high mountains, the roof of the world.
That night, my body was at home in Georgia—but my mind was lost somewhere I'd never been, surrounded by the snowy ranges of a place called Tibet.
The image above was appropriated from the International Campaign for Tibet at: http://www.savetibet.org/