Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First trip to Europe

To prepare for my trip to Europe for the first time, I didn’t have to do much. I was about thirteen years old at the time, and my mother packed everything. I remember going to someplace to get my picture taken for my passport. It was a very silly little picture. I had a large goofy grin. I wore a red sweatshirt. That was back when my hair was long and uncared for. I didn’t really know at the time that this would be the picture that would stick with me for the next five years. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it; it was just that I looked so young.

When I was in Europe, it was the first time I had ever been out of the country. We went to France, England, Italy, Switzerland. A couple of other random places that I can’t recall very well at the moment. I remember being dragged through art museums and churches that I didn’t appreciate at the time, but I look back in awe now.

One of the places that I remember most was in France. We’d rented a cabin area, and at the time I was traveling with my family and another family that had three girls, the oldest of which was my age. This cabin was in the middle of the French Alps. Two levels, as far as we were allowed, but apparently there was a third. We didn’t realize it, but I guess the guy who owned the place lived on the top floor. So anyway, the parents decided to go out, and so the first thing the kids did was start to blast American rock music as loud as we could. We started shouting and jumping on the furniture. Basically anything we felt like to kinda get out the repressed energy that we felt so strongly while walking through incredibly boring places such as the Louver.

Anyway, so naturally the guy upstairs heard us, and so I believe he felt it was a good idea to come down stairs to see how we were doing. He came trotting through the room, and he waved at us. This guy spoke limited English, but the extent of what he knew felt very natural and fluent. “Hey, guys. How’s it going?” A sheepish grin. I remember he was tall, muscular. He had short blonde hair and a typical French disposition. I remember just staring at the guy and thinking to myself, “and where the hell did YOU come from?” After that, we were quieted, mostly from the startle of discovering that our host was actually living upstairs. His excuse had been that he needed to get a glass.

I was the oldest there, and it was only in times like these that I was carefully reminded of it. I was always the wild one in the group. Uninhibited by petty worries of what someone thought of me, so the girls and my little brother all gathered into my room, expecting that I would protect them. Of course, I would. I never minded how my role always switched up when it came right down to it. I actually took pride in it, and I would have done whatever I could have to protect my makeshift family.

We listened to the clicking and shuffling around in the downstairs kitchen. I remember the quiet, strained breaths of my friends who huddled on my bed, unsure of what this stranger would do. The soft steps, the creaking of the stairs. He knocked on our door and peered inside. I stared at him and said, “Move on.” There was a nodded response, and finally, a click of a mysterious door as he finally disappeared into the recesses of his hidden abode.

We told the parents right off about it. Mine didn’t care much, and I guess it was that disposition that raised me to be the person who I am today. It did feel comforting that the other parents agreed with me that the guy was just weird…

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