I was no more than 12 when my parents took us to Europe for the first time. Armed with Arthur Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day, we shlepped from ruin to ruin, church to church, and through some of the most amazing galleries in the world. We stood at the feet of Michaelangelo's David. Walked to the top of the leaning tower in Pisa and watched, dressed in dirndls and lederhosen, as our parents drank beer in the biergarten in Munich. They took us to places that we'd learned about in school, and many more that we hadn't, and while we enjoyed it, I'm quite certain that we took it for granted.
Somehow it wasn't surprising that when the opportunity came to study abroad when I was an English major at Boston College, I jumped at the chance. I boarded a British Airways jet bound for Exeter, England. I didn't really know where Exeter was and in truth, it didn't really matter. I was young and confident, ready to spread my wings and explore the world.
I spent 5 months in the southern part of England in magnificent Devonshire, the land of rolling hills and cream teas, reading Chaucer and Shakespeare and the works of DH Lawrence. During our semester break, a highly civilized academic ritual that we would be wise to adopt here in the US, I wore out my Eurail Pass with my gal pal Missy eating chocolate in Salzburg, frites in Belgium and the best pizza ala quattro stagione known to man in a little cafe in the cypress dotted hills of Tuscany. It was an amazing adventure and I loved every minute, but I'm not sure I realized, at the time, just how lucky I was.
Because somehow, I always thought I'd go back.
And then life happened. The dreams of a young college student gave way to the responsibilites of young woman; of work and graduate school, of paying mortgages and raising children. Life was noisy. There were meals to make, ball games to attend, laundry to do. There was always laundry to do. The dreams, while still there, were drowned out by the noise of life, floating periodically into consciousness the way a dandelion seed does as it grabs your attention and then blows away into the bright summer sky.
And then one day it got quiet. Eerily quiet. So quiet it was possible to hear the icemaker drop cubes down to the bottom of the freezer, past the handy little drawer that was meant to catch them. It happened so quickly. Twenty years in an instant. A blink of an eye. There were no more games to attend. No more homework to edit. No more laundry to do.
And in the quiet, the dream was still there.
Thirty three years later, I sit in an airline terminal, waiting to board another British Airways flight. This time, instead of being a student in a Study Abroad program, I am the instructor. Armed with a lifetime of experiences, and an ample case of nerves, I'm going back. This time I'm a little bit older, and a little bit wiser and this time I won't take it for granted.