Monday, June 2, 2008

The Fifteen Year-old and the Terrorist (Part One)

I was a seasoned traveler by the time I was a teen. My family lived in Dallas, but my extended family lived everywhere but. We had driven and flown all over the country visiting cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. I had never been to Disneyland, but I knew the buffalo grazing at Fermi Lab as well as my own back yard; that’s where my grandpa worked. For my tenth birthday I got a trip to Minnesota. I went to camp in Wisconsin. I had been to visit my cousins in Tenafly, New Jersey with a side trip into New York City. I knew how to pack as well as I knew the flight attendant’s safety spiel.

I read voraciously, too, and my head filled with the sights and sounds of far away cities: Florence, Chicago, London, Paris, New York. Nothing was written about Dallas. It was the most unromantic, unglamorous big city on the face of the planet. And as I traveled mentally, I longed to travel period. I was a trapped gypsy.

My friend, Amy, who had, in my estimation, an inferior imagination and an even more inferior desire to travel, went to Paris for a week with her mother. She didn’t even really want to go. Her mom thought it would be good since she was taking French.

I died inside. My mother didn’t have enough money to take me to Paris, Texas let alone Paris, France. And Amy didn’t even have the courtesy to bring me a present back. Goes to France and no gift? Some friend!

So, there I was trapped in hot, sticky, stinky Dallas reading and dreaming and scheming.

And then the phone rang.

I was in the kitchen. Mom was on the phone. It was my grandparents. “Blah blah blah Aunt Judy blah blah the schnauzer down the street blah blah report cards blah blah blah Angela, your grandparents want to talk to you.”

Um. Ok.

This was a little odd, and I thought perhaps I was in trouble. I knew and loved my grandparents, but we didn’t talk on the phone much. I mean, they lived in Illinois and long distance phone calls were expensive, so generally we just wrote thank you notes and the occasional card or letter and then chatted it up when we were together twice each year.

But, ya know, I would talk to them.

“Hi, Grandma. Hi, Grandpa.”

“Hello,” they both chimed in. I could just see them – Grandma on the phone in her kitchen, and Grandpa on the phone in his office.

“Say,” Grandpa said, “We have been talking with your mother.” Yep. I am in trouble. I started going through my list of recent transgressions trying to figure out what I’d done most wrong.

“We were wondering if you would want to take a trip with us this summer?”

Oh.

“Um, sure!”

“Well, your Grandpa has some meetings in Finland and in Russia,” my grandmother said, “so we wondered if you would like to come along to keep me company. It would be your birthday present.”

I just about peed my pants, fell over, and screamed all at the same time. But I was fifteen. That wasn’t cool.

“That sounds great!” I could hardly contain the urge to leap around the room. In measuring the moments in my life since – graduations, our wedding, holding my own book for the first time – THIS might be the most excited I’ve ever been. I was beside myself.

“And we thought we would stop in London on the way home,” Grandma said.

In a Victorian novel I would have fainted at this point.

“Finland, Russia, and England… we are going to Europe?” My heart thudded in my chest.

And so it began.

(To be continued...)

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