A quick escape – part one
Apr 1, 2020 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
It’s probably fair to say we’re all looking for a little inspiration these days. Something to pull us through these challenging times. This season of social distancing has made self-care all the more important. During my last trip to the store I picked up some LEGO kits. It’s soothing to have a part of my life clearly defined. Engaging in a step-by-step path toward success is healing (even if it’s just to create Olaf from Frozen). But regardless of how small it may seem, when I see the finished product, I get a rush of accomplishment. These mini-projects are lifting my spirits tremendously. But, if I’m being honest, there are times I want to slip into a world of imagination and forget all the news alerts. As Willy Wonka would tell us, “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination.” This fictional, wacky chocolatier has inspired me to try something entirely different with this month’s features. In the coming weeks we’re going to offer a quick escape to all lovers of history! Up next is the first of a trio of vignettes that speak to three different historic moments. Try to guess not only where we are, but when we are! Find out at the end of this post if your guesses are right and tell us where your imagination is taking you in the comments…
Quick escape 1 : a marvelous ascent
The morning air is so crisp that I immediately shiver. But that’s a good thing because I need a little jolt to my system. I need to feel alert and courageous. Everyone tells me this endeavor is madness. My mother wouldn’t stop wringing her hands when I announced my intention to accept the invitation. Whispers fill the street as we make our way down the boulevard. I hear a gravelly voice exclaim “if the breeze picks up, the whole thing will tumble.” Even our barouche seems unsure about this destination, lagging behind as the horses mark out a rhythm with their hooves. This journey seems never-ending. How do I already feel exhausted? To distract myself from the interminable ticking of my uncle’s pocket watch, I adjust my hat. For the fourth time. It does not go unnoticed by my companions. I’m given a judgmental glance by one of the upstart Americans who have joined our small party. Trying to remember my manners, I bat my lashes in a way my mother always thought was most courteous. Unfortunately I’m fairly certain this message of peace and tranquility does not match my facial expression. So much for dignity. But what does it matter if that man on the street was right? What if the breeze does indeed pick up?
We turn the corner and the sun bursts forth triumphant. The clouds have parted and I’m enveloped in the delicious warmth. The warm weather reminds me of summers past and has me imagining summers yet to come. See! I’m thinking of the future so that must be a good sign, right? Before I know it I will be the toast of every social gathering, friends begging to hear about my wild day among the clouds. I just need to keep conjuring positive thoughts. And then it comes into full-view. Our final stop is upon us. A hushed reverence takes over our party as the inane chit chat comes to an abrupt halt. I can’t believe I’m going to do this. I’ve never been much of an explorer. Couldn’t even get my kite out of the tree when I was little. But now I’m all grown-up – which comes with its own challenges. Lately my life has been a blur, surrounded by constant talk about whom I should marry. (Granted I’m not doing much of the talking because my role as “chief listener” was pre-destined.) I imagine this little stunt could come in quite handy as I consider my possible suitors. There will either be gentlemen who admire my courage or those who will reprimand me. That will help me decide surely. Suddenly I realize this moment in my country’s history could also help me write my own. Clever girl! (As my dear grand-mère would say and how I miss her. She would have loved this adventure.)
I exit the barouche feeling empowered. This is my moment just as much as it is for all these university gentlemen and diplomats. Admittedly I don’t hear much of the speeches being made. I acknowledge the deep voices cutting through the thick air, but I can’t make out the words. I simply can’t drag my focus away from the sky. My eyes adjust, trying to understand this foreign, weird shape that is both beautiful and terrifying. It seems so delicate, so much like lace. Yet standing here up-close I start counting all the individual parts to this giant thing. (I’m not even sure what to call it). But surely, something that is built up of so many small pieces must be strong. As my mother would remind me, there is grace in strength. Perhaps that’s how I shall address this man-made oddity. To myself I declare, “Grace, I shall learn your secrets shrouded in the mist!” I shift my hat again, not out of nerves, but to ready myself for the long trek ahead. Finally all the blustering monologues stop, polite applause is rendered, and we begin. If I were here by myself I would lift up my skirt and run, racing higher toward the heavens with the sunshine cheering me on. But I’m behind my uncle and he enjoyed extra helpings at dinner. The going is slow, but somehow as the air grows thinner it’s like my life is getting clearer. My heart leaps as I look over the expanse of my city. I know it’s not my city alone, but somehow I feel ownership. There’s something about having your life make sense for the first time that makes you bold. All those dusty thoughts that were consuming my mind fall away. All the doubts shake free until all that remains is a name: Henri. My future and my love.
Have you guessed where our heroine spent her morning? If you wagered that she was part of the first group to scale the Eiffel Tower in Paris – well done Sherlock! The first inauguration for the Eiffel Tower took place in March of 1889. The elevators weren’t completed yet so each guest (a member of the upper-crust of Parisian society) was expected to climb over 1000 steps. If the fitbit would have been invented then, you could imagine everyone cheering that their steps for the week were done!