In her hometown of Lansing, Michigan, “50-plus something” Estina Banks is known simply as “The Map Lady.” Friends, family, and even mere acquaintances make a point to collect any vintage maps they may come across to give to Banks, which she gladly accepts. But just why is Banks seemingly obsessed with old, dusty maps?
Because she turns them into something new and meaningful for families touched by adoption.
The story began when Banks and her husband grew their family through adoption and became the parents of one son, now a senior in high school, and one daughter, now a junior, both born in South Korea.
When her children were little, Banks tells Babble that she recalls instances of going out in public and having to explain, over and over, that she was her children’s mom. She even remembers one particular incident when her daughter fell on the playground and a complete stranger picked her up and handed her to a baffled Asian woman standing nearby.
After experiences like that, Banks says she felt a pull to find a piece of jewelry that represented her children’s country of origin and would stand as a physical sign of her connection to her children.
“I think I wanted something for myself that said, ‘Yeah, I’m a mom,’” Banks explains. “My children didn’t come to me in the traditional sense … they came to in a little different way. Yet I’m still a mom.”
After going online and not finding what she was looking for, Banks decided to create her own piece of jewelry by crafting a necklace with a pendant that contained a map of Korea, along with the country’s flag. It wasn’t long before other adoptive mothers began asking her to make necklaces for them, too. Banks started gifting the necklaces to other families who been through the adoption processes and eventually, her business took off.