I crept quietly towards my sister’s bedroom door and peeked in. Babe was sitting on a ruffled stool in front of the dressing table combing her dark hair into a smooth pageboy. Clad only in a long slip, she looked thin and delicate.
Behind me, I heard Mama coming up the stairs. Tousling my hair, she walked past me into the room inquiring, “Did you want me to help you slip into your prom dress?”
The blue, floor-length formal Babe had chosen to wear for the dance tonight had blue tulle over a silky under-skirt. It looked heavenly. I sighed in admiration. My sister looked like an angel standing in a misty cloud. Slipping into high heels, my sister turned back toward her dressing table, picked up a blue bottle and dabbed perfume behind her ears.
I giggled when Babe’s date came to pick her up. Although I’d seen him before, he looked different wearing a formal suit. Mom retrieved her brownie box camera from her bedroom bureau to take a photograph of them in the backyard. I watched and wondered if I’d ever look as grown-up and sophisticated as they did.
After Babe and her date drove away, I wandered around in the backyard for a while. Despite a small rain shower earlier, the golden rays from the setting sun felt warm. Under my bare feet, the grass felt slightly damp. The scent of blossoming lilacs filled the yard. Sniffing, I thought my sister’s little dab of perfume.
The only perfume I had known as a child was called ‘Evening in Paris’. I loved it’s distinctive, deep-blue bottle. Although I was just a child growing up on a Wisconsin farm in the 1950’s, I knew that Paris was in France and in Europe. Germany, the country where my grandparents had immigrated is next to France, just as Minnesota is next to Wisconsin.
I took it for granted that I would never travel to visit Paris or any other foreign country. Taking such a huge trip across the Atlantic Ocean was a major, once in a lifetime experience. My grandparents, Rose and Jacob, Franziska and August had come from Europe as young adults, but never went back to visit those who had stayed behind.
Attitudes towards traveling changed over the years. Five years ago, I crossed the ocean and visited Italy. I feel amazed when I think of the five days I spent in Rome and having the chance to see several other cities like Sienna and Assisi. A year and a half later, I traveled again to Israel. When I read the gospels now, I can say, “I stood on the shore along the sea of Galilee where Jesus and the apostles did! I walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.”
Last year, when another pilgrimage opportunity came up, I asked my daughter Tammie, to join me. I pointed out, “We travel well together.” Then, pleading, “Please come.”
After thinking it over, Tammie agreed. In a few weeks we will be flying to Europe to visit France, Spain and Portugal. As the time to leave draws closer, I spend time everyday studying our itinerary, researching the places we will see.
We start the trip by landing at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. As a young school girl, I knew Charles de Gaulle was the president of France from 1958 to 1969. Our plan is to spend the night and tour Paris before boarding a high-speed train to southern France.
When I travel I want to know the size of the country I’m visiting. I’ve discovered France is a little smaller than our state of Texas, Spain is a little larger than California and Portugal is nearly the same size as Indiana. The Pyrenees mountain range runs from the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. North of the mountains is France. South of the mountains is Spain and Portugal.
As I plan this trip, I can’t help but think about my pretty big sister, Babe and the perfume that came in a cobalt blue bottle with the exotic name. I had had a hard time believing that I would ever be grown-up and sophisticated as my sister, let alone having the chance to actually spend an evening in Paris, France!