This was much longer when I first finished it, but once I started reading it outloud I realized that it was far too long to read at the writing group. Someday I’ll use the extra detail about my trip to Jordan to write a story just about that. The other stuff will be used somewhere down the line. This was a fun story to write!
It was 1974 and my family, along with my grandfather, were on our way from where we had been living in England to Norway, with a few sightseeing stops along the way.
As we neared our first destination, small cars zipped around our pumpkin coloured station wagon, impatient with our seemingly slow transit as we moved through the busy city streets. Dad eventually found our hotel in the labyrinth of roads that make up old Paris and we rushed to check in so that we could explore the city on foot.
First stop - the Eiffel tower. The criss-cross of iron decorating the skyline with its imposing elegance was magnificent to us prairie bumpkins. We made our way up to the viewing platform, an aerie in the heavens with a multi dimensional map of Paris unfolded below it. We gawked and gawked, enchanted with the view. Once back on earth, my Grandfather started looking for a souvenir shop: the Eiffel tower in all her glory must be remembered! Not far from the foot of the tower was a little stand with replicas from the size of my pinkie to ones well over a foot tall. Perhaps thinking his eyesight might fail someday, Grandpa bought the biggest of the lot, a towering statue sure to dominate any shelf.
Back at the hotel room, the ribbing started. Oh, how my Dad teased Grandpa about his treasured souvenir. He talked of the hole Grandpa would have to make in the shelf back home to make room for the lofty structure. It was when Grandpa started trying to pack it in his suitcase that we all fell on the floor in fits of giddy laughter. He might have to cut a hole in his suitcase too!
Fifteen years later, in 1989, I was watching the world pass beneath me from 30,000ft. My Dad was beside me and we were on our way to Jordan. Dad was teaching a course there for a few days and I was lucky enough to accompany him.
As soon as we settled into our hotel we headed out with a street map in hand. The street scene was not North American - donkey's pulling small carts, and camels with large bundles were led by Arab men in flowing white robes. Small shops brimming with colourful goods lined the roads and narrow alleys. The tall, narrow spires of minarets punctuated the skyline, amplifiers for other-worldly chanting could be heard no matter where we were, reminded us of our exotic location. It was all so wonderful and we wanted to capture it forever - a simple memento would not suffice. A camel blanket, horse blanket, woven camel hair bridle and reins, leather stools to be stuffed when we got home, painted wooden dolls and traditional tribal jewellery all made their way back to the hotel room.
One of the Indiana Jones movies was re-lived when we took a trip to Petra. Perched atop old horses, we made our way down the narrow canyon that leads to the treasury. As we squeezed our way between the cliff walls, I wondered, if, after so much anticipation, seeing the actual treasury would be a let down. It wasn't. The rose pink facade glowed as if lit from a sun within. Camels and their men stood about the square with the dust of two thousand years at their feet. My breath caught in my throat and a few tears pricked at my eyes. It was spectacular. A trinket would never capture the experience, but we got a few anyway.
Our trip was over all too quickly and it was time to pack up to go home. Eying our piles of souvenirs we started laughing - how were we going to fit this excess into our already straining bags! We each stuffed, and squeezed, mashed and wedged, and finally resorted to brute force to pack away our treasures We looked at each other and memories of that evening in Paris made us laugh so hard that tears rolled off our faces. We were both just like Grandpa.