"Joshua," he remembered his mother saying to him, a very, very, long time ago, "One day we'll go to Europe. You, me, Daddy, and Kikay." She looked back to the TV screen, where a young cartoon woman began to cry as she reunited with her long lost grandmother. He remembered not taking his mother seriously, only being interested in finding another peanut butter jellybean somewhere in the bag they bought earlier that afternoon.
"Aye, my god. Paris... London... It's always been my dream to go to all those places before I die. We'll go. One day. Maybe. When we win the lottery."
Many, many years later, as he pedaled his way past the Arc de Triomphe, past the Louvre, and past la Bastille, this tiny fragment of a memory, however minimally detailed, surfaced to his conscience. Almost colliding with a parked car, he pulled into an alley and locked his bicycle.
He had fallen in love with the City, that much was obvious. Throughout his travels, he never regretted any of the places he had gone, but was always asked,
Why did you choose to go there?
His initial answer was simple: I want to touch each continent before I die. Upon further consideration, he realized that different reasons brought him to different countries. India: where he would experience sensory overload. Uganda: where he would learn to appreciate a much more simple life. Australia: where he would find how much more he needed to grow. Argentina: where he would experience passion, firsthand. But France?
Where he would live a dream - his or his mother's, that wasn't clear - at the end of a dream year. Why the rest of his family never made it to Europe, he couldn't exactly understand. He had made it here without the lottery [although the definition of lottery was now in debate], accomplished before the end of the first quarter of his life.
"Don't worry about your mother," Betty said in Argentina, "If she didn't travel somewhere, she had her own reasons."
As he walked past the patisserie full of macaroons and tartelettes, he couldn't help but think, How fair is it that I got to live her dream before she did? A tiny pang of guilt tugged at his stomach.
In Australia, Philip had once expressed hesitation in becoming a parent. "I think the real challenge in being a parent," he argued, "would be to help my child find happiness. And if my son or daughter could say one day that they found happiness, I know I'd have done my job."
Later that night, he would take his camera out of his bag and snap a picture of himself with a flower-shaped cone of gelato. Maybe it was the mix of raspberry and chocolate, or maybe it was the first night that felt like summer, or maybe it was just the good company with whom he had dinner. Happiness had been sitting there with him so far this year, and he was sure that it wouldn't leave afterwards.
Maybe knowing that would be enough for her.
[Living There TOday]