Sunday, July 14, 2013

Courage, Children!

Twenty-four years ago today, I married my high-school sweetheart.  We'd both graduated from college six weeks earlier.  If my children do this i will probably have some sort of stress-based illness becaus of it, but, as my mother told me later, it wasn't like she could have stopped me.  I was determined to be married.

We thought long and hard about where to go on our honeymoon.  Lots of people suggested Sandals resorts or things of that ilk, but beaches frankly bore my husband.  He's good for three hours of beach time per year, total, tops, and only one hour of that can be actual laying on the beach.  The rest must be walking on the beach, kicking a ball on the beach, or, ideally, playing golf in the same general neighborhood as a beach.  (They call such golf courses links.  He loves them.)   Now, I like a beach, but I was also very aware that this was the last vacation we'd get in a long time.  (We' d saved for it, and my new father-in-law very generously gave us plane tickets for a wedding gift, but my husband was heading to medical school when we returned.  There aren't vacations in medical school.). I wanted exotic.

So, no beaches, somewhere by plane--I'd been to England several years previously to visit family friends, and my husband had once been to Paris.  We both liked the sound of Italy, but neither of us spoke a lick of Italian, so that sounded daunting.  We'd taken high school French.  Paris, then.

A travel agent had found us an inexpensive but charming small hotel near the Left Bank.  When we staggered in at 8 am after an overnight flight, the proprietress gave us a stern look over the top of her glasses and said something imperious in French.  All ability to speak the language left me in an instant.  I gaped.

Her imperious look vanished.  Very kindly, she asked in English, "Where did you come from?"

I said, "Indiana."

With a flurry of sympathy, she explained that our bedroom, with its "marital bed," was not ready, but she would let us sleep in another room right noe.  Then we could have a shower and move into our real room.  At that point I might have slept on the lobby floor, except that there really wasn't room in it to stretch full out.

It didn't matter.  Madame took care of us.  She turned out to be the only person at the hotel who spoke a lick of English, which made for some interesting conversations when we tried to order breakfast each morning.  (I'm not sure why I found speaking French so daunting.  I'm a lot farther away from my high school classes now than I was then, and I speak French much better now.)  Paris was gripped by a massive heat wave while we were there--it hit 104 two days running--and there was no air conditioning anywhere.  The Louvre felt like a sauna.  We took to heading out early in the morning, then coming back for cold baths (the hotel didn't have showers) mid afternoon befor venturing forth again.  Madame would have  the front door propped open, in an attempt to catch a breeze, and every time we left she would shout down the cobblestones street after us: "Courage, children!"

Which is pretty good advice for a marriage.