Which Memories are Really Unforgetable?
When all you are left with is a handful of pictures -
We dream of the trip we would take, if only we could.
Then a chance comes along, a once in a lifetime opportunity, and before we know it we're standing on the Acropolis of Athens or at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or looking across the Aegean from the top of Santorini. How did we ever get here?
Then, like changing the channel on a television set, we're back home, and all we have are our memories, some pictures, and a couple of souvenirs. But the memories. Those are, as the commercial says, priceless.
A few years go by. Other trips happen. New memories are built on top of the old ones. And pretty soon you find them running together. Now, what year was it that we went on the cruise? Oh, yes, the year before the grand baby was born. And where did we get that cut glass punchbowl? On the shopping trip in Germany when we went to Oktoberfest. Your once in a lifetime memories start to meld into one, long, continuous one.
But there are some scenes that play out in your mind from time to time just as clearly as the day they actually happened. Mine will never be the same as yours or anybody else's. My husband's scenes probably come the closest to being like mine since he was with me on most, if not all, of those travels. I've done hubs on places I've been and others on places I'd like to go. I'd love to hear from fellow hubbers on the kinds of mental scenes I'm writing about today: those moments in time you replay in your memory over and over and over again.
On a Good Friday sometime in the 1980s my Mother, my sister and I walked into the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It was mid afternoon and crowded. The congregation was reciting something in French. The three of us stood in the back about three persons deep behind the last row of pews. Not speaking French, we simply listened. After a few seconds, my sister whispered to me, "Do you know what they are saying?" I shook my head no. "The Lord's Prayer. I can tell by the timing, and I recognize some of the words."
In that instant the three of us went from listening just to meaningless noise to hearing the words, and feeling the emotions, and experiencing the significance of the Our Father. I've been through about thirty more Good Fridays since that one. But that one, that moment, I remember like I can still smell the musty rising walls and still see the glow of a thousand candles.
We had arrived in Paris late the night before. The bus ride from Frankfurt had taken all day. We checked into our tiny, little hotel on a tiny, little avenue within walking distance of the Arch de Triomphe. It was almost midnight but we couldn't sit still. We threw our bags into our rooms, locked the doors, and headed towards the lights.
Crossing a six-laned roundabout to get to the concrete island in the center, we took our lives in our hands to stand at a point where we could see, simultaneously by turning in a circle, the Tour Effiel, the Arch de Triomphe and the full length (or so it appeared) of the Champs Elysee. To say the least - Wow.
When we had taken in all we could hold, we started back across the six-lanes of roadway. At that instant, some light some where changed to green, opening the floodgates of traffic to rain down on us stranded in the middle of the street. My sister bolted to the nearest curb. I grabbed the hand of my Mother, who must have been then about the age I am now (which terrifies me even as I type) and began to dodge what seemed like an endless supply of Mercedes taxi cabs coming at us from every direction at once. The only thought I had in my head at that moment was this: Don't hit me! I still have credit left to use on my BankAmericard!
While stationed in Germany when my husband was still a young Army officer, we blew a month's pay and took a trip to Greece. We figured it would be the only chance we'd ever get, after all, we were already thirty years old.
We took an Athens By Night tour the first night. The next night we went looking for a place where we could get the same fabulous food, music, and Greek dancing we'd enjoyed the night before. We couldn't find anything even close. Finally a doorman at a restaurant told us those places were only opened on special nights for tourists.
We took a city bus all the way out to the coast closest to Turkey to see the Temple of Poseidon. After the Parthenon and the Acropolis, it was just as impressive architecturally, but this time, the structure was sitting on the point of a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the sea. These are all great memories, but none of them are the scene I keep replaying in my mind's eye all these years later.
We took a three day cruise to a Greek Island. We thought the boat was pretty spacious when we first boarded. Its capacity appeared to be about 100 passengers. By the time the crew finished boarding all the passengers, we were body-to-body with about 500 of our closest, mostly German middle-aged, friends on the boat. It set sail with us wondering how it managed to stay afloat under all the weight of so many people.
The first day of the cruise was all about stopping at small islands where there was nothing to do but peruse gift shops full of tourist junk. Anybody who has traveled to any extent can testify to this fact: tourist junk is tourist junk anywhere in the world. But at the end of the day, the ship deposited us on the island where we were to spend the night. The hotel catered to those German tourists who made up the majority of our fellow cruisers. They served the Greek equivalent of German food that didn't do either culture justice. We headed out to find a local cafe and find some of the fabulous dishes we'd already fallen in love with in Athens.
After a successful search for dinner, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night. On the way we wandered onto a spot where the view froze us in place. The sun was setting over the water and a single fishing boat was caught in silhouette as the blaze of light melted into the horizon. The branches of the palm trees we were standing under framed the entire scene.
That is the portrait I still see. The pictures we took on that trip are lost in the depths of one of our photo albums somewhere in our basement, or attic, or the back of one of our closets.
But those few moments are the magic that is indelible in my mind's eye. Always will be.