Flashback Friday: Welcome to the First Class You Will Ever Fail

Flashback Friday is a feature I did in 2011 when I first started this blog.  It was a way to practice my writing by sharing stories of things that happened in my life.  This feature is what inspired the name of my blog.  This short story is about a class I took in college where I got the first F of my life and it was quite shocking.  Hope you enjoy it.

“Welcome to Piano Literature! I’m Professor Beekman and we will be studying the wonderful world of the Romantic period.  Lizst, Brahms, and Chopin are just some of the great composers we will get to know this semester.  Please take one syllabus and pass them down.”

Professor Beekman seems nice.  He’s young unlike most of the piano professors.  He’s average height and has a gentle smile, unlike the head of the piano department who is short, terrifying, and smiles in a condescending way.  Professor Beekman also still has all of his hair which is a nice bonus.

“Are there any questions before I hand out the music?”

YES. WHAT THE CRAP IS PIANO LITERATURE.

I’m about to raise my hand but I look around the room first.  Two students are sleeping, four are staring off into space and the girl next to me is taking detailed notes.  Great, I’ll be the idiot freshman who wants to know “What IS piano literature?”  I don’t raise my hand.

During the noise of CDs being passed around the class along with huge notebooks that contain the scores to the CDs with at least 100 pages in them, I turn to the girl next to me who was taking notes.  Her name is Maggie.

“So…what is piano literature exactly?” I try to seem curious and not dumb by slouching a little and twirling my pencil casually.

“I don’t really know, either.” She shrugs with a small smile.

That’s okay.  I’m sure I’ll do great in this class even if I don’t know what it’s even about yet.

CRYING MAKES MY PROFESSOR QUOTE TOLSTOY

Here’s the short version of what piano literature is: it’s the class from hell.  The long version: It’s a class to help you recognize all of the major piano works just by listening to them and learning about the lives of the famous piano composers.  To accomplish this we have to take tests that are so laughably hard that my friends thought I was kidding when I described the tests to them.

For our first quiz, Professor Beekman plays 30 second clips from the four hours of music the we have been listening to.  And he doesn’t play the main themes of the pieces that everyone recognizes.  Oh no. That would be too easy. He takes way too much delight in playing the very obscure, transitional parts of the music.  I can’t remember the names of any of the pieces.  I should have memorized them.  You know that charming, beautiful music from the romantic period? It all sounds the same.  I end up getting 2 out of 5 right on my first quiz.  The seniors that were sleeping on the first day of class all get 4 out of 5 right.  That should be me.  I slept through calculus in high school and still got an A. Something must be wrong.

I talk to my professor after class about my grade and explain that I correctly identified the Hungarian Rhapsody.  “I can live with a C if I get this one more question right….”  He smiles a little and says “But the title of the song is Hungarian Rhapsody NUMBER 2.”

“But you didn’t say we had to list the whole title of the song.”

He helpfully suggests that he’ll announce it in class next time and now I know.

He must have been Snape in another life.  He walks out the door but he sees me crying before he gets there and says some quote from Tolstoy about how everyone is unhappy in different ways.  THANK YOU THAT’S VERY HELPFUL.

I have to come up with a plan to pass this class.

STUDYING STRATEGY #1 – BUY ENOUGH BATTERIES TO FILL A SMALL LANDFILL.

I can feel my husband watching me as I cram my portable CD player, my bulky headphones, my CD wallet, and a ten-pack of batteries into my backpack.

“What are all the batteries for?”

“I have to listen to my CDs to study for piano lit.  My portable CD player eats batteries for breakfast.”

“But….10 batteries?”

“I know.  I hope it’s enough to get through the day.”

The study by osmosis method didn’t work.  I thought I could just listen to the music over and over without really paying attention since I can memorize tons of radio songs that way.  Learning this music is going to take more work.  I listen to my piano lit CDs for at least an hour and a half every day.  And now I know that he loves transitions.  So I pay special attention to the strange parts of the pieces.

The professor hands back my first test.  I got 35 right out of 100. How pathetic is that.  It’s not even enough for random chance.  It’s like my brain is trying to get them wrong.  At least I didn’t cry this time.

And then.

THEN.

He passes out four more CDs with FOUR MORE hours of music to learn.  We get a new set of music at the end of each month.

I can’t breathe.  How is everyone else passing this class? Why did I decide to be a piano major?

STUDYING STRATEGY #2 – TO PASS THIS CLASS YOU MUST KILL TREES

“It’s okay. I didn’t do so well on my test either,” Maggie says as she looks at my test.  I glance at her paper.  She got a C. I’ve never gotten one of those either.  I went from an A student right to an F student.  It would have been nice to pass through mediocrity first before I went straight for failure.

“A bunch of us are going to study together.  Do you want to join us?”

Heck yes I do.  I’m no longer Hermione. I’ve officially become the Ron of this study group.

The study group gives tips for remembering transitions that sound similar in songs.  I also notice that all of them have copied the over 100 pages of the scores for the music.

“How do you even copy 100 pages of music?” I ask Maggie at one of our study sessions.

“Oh it’s easy actually.  They have a tray the feeds the paper for you.  But you’ll need to get a copy card to copy that many pages.”

Between the batteries and the copy card, this class is costing me a fortune.

I stare at the pages during the study sessions like everyone else.  I’m not exactly sure what they are looking for.  I memorize all the names of the pieces and ask my professor if I can write them down on a piece of paper before the test starts.  Maybe the confidence of having options to look at will help.  It’s clear from the look on his face that in all the years he’s taught this class,no one has ever asked him that but he says it’s fine.

I get 40 out of 100 right this time.

I’ve gone from a straight A high school student to completely failing a class.  Half of my grade is an F.  After lots of calculations, I figure I can get a C- if I get 200% on the next two tests.

“I shouldn’t be a piano major.” I tell Maggie as we leave the classroom.  “I suck at it.  No matter how much I listen to the music, it just falls out of my head.”

“No, you don’t suck! Everyone just learns differently.  We’ll study  more and you’ll do great.”  Maggie then gives me a hug and a big smile.

She’s annoyingly chipper.

At the end of the day, the broken record of “I’m a failure” and “Everyone learns differently” is still playing in my head when I realize something.

I LEARN DIFFERENTLY.

I have almost photographic memory for things I read and see but I’ll forget the beginning of a conversation by the time I get to the end of one.  Especially if the person yammers on a lot.  I remember learning in psychology that some people are visual learners and some are aural learners.  Now that I think about it, I realize that I am definitely a visual learner.  I can totally pass this class if I find a way to make piano lit visual instead of aural!

Right. I have no idea how to do that. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to make a listening test visual because it’s, you know, a LISTENING TEST.  But I need to do this for me.  No matter what grade I end up with at the end of the semester, I can’t help thinking that I haven’t failed until I give up.  This is a class for my major.  If I don’t pass, I can’t be a piano major anymore.  Besides – what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll get another F?  The thought makes me laugh for a moment before it turns into a sob.

STUDYING STRATEGY #3 – CRAYONS AREN’T JUST FOR PRESCHOOL

“What are you doing?” my friend Maggie asks.

“I’m studying for piano lit.”

“Ok. But what’s with the crayons.”

I look at my score spread out before me.  There are blue circles, green lines, and red dots just on this page alone.

I shrug. “The colors help me remember the themes. Hopefully.”

It’s the last test of the semester.  I’ve been studying 3 hours a day for this class alone.  I spent the last of my money on a brand new iPod Mini just for this class that even has a built in quiz function.  I think my classmates are a little jealous of it.  At my desk, I furiously write down my song list before he begins the first clip.  I am so ready.

I get 60 out of 100 hundred right.  OH YEAH!!! That’s more than half right! Which means statistically it wasn’t just guessing!  I so rocked that test.

EPILOGUE – NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER

My professor calls me into his office later that day.  He invites me to sit. I’m so sure that he’s going to congratulate me on my score that I don’t understand what he says at first.

“I’m a little concerned about your grade.”

“….Oh. Well I got 60 right this time.” A huge smile spreads across my face. I can’t help it.

He purses his lips together and gives me a look full of pity. “That’s a D.”

My smile deflates.  “Oh. I guess it is.” Some people just don’t look at the positive in life.  I see it as more than half right, he sees it as almost half of them wrong….

“Look I know you’ve been studying hard.  I’ll take that into account for your final grade.  You can do some extra credit and your writing tests should help bump up your grade a little.”

My final grade that semester was a B-.  I’m crying because I’m more proud of that B- than I was of all the other A’s I had earned combined.  Next semester we studied 20th century music which was mostly glass and nails on piano strings and other disturbing things.  But I had my study methods down to an art.  I was getting 90 out of 100 right on my tests.  Remember those sleeping seniors? They had never heard any of this so-called music and wanted to learn our studying strategies.  So I got to be Hermione again by helping them study.  And that was a wonderful feeling.

Flashback Friday: Superman

Flashback Friday is a feature I did in 2011 when I first started this blog.  It was a way to practice my writing by sharing stories of things that happened in my life.  This feature is what inspired the name of my blog.  I haven’t done any writing since 2011, but since I’m in a writing group now I’ve started writing again! And I thought I’d resurrect this featured to share my writing with you.  This is a memory of my dad.  I hope you enjoy.

Daddy shuts my favorite book and kisses me on the forehead. He gets up from the edge of my bed and turns off the bedroom light but keeps the door open a crack so it’s not dark. I’m glad he remembers now so I don’t have to yell down the hall. I’m seven and I have to yell a lot for anyone to even hear me. I snuggle my white teddy bear and close my eyes to go to sleep. I yank on my bear’s cord to play the music box that’s inside him. He plays Jingle Bells. I know it’s not Christmas. Leave me alone. Just as I’m about to drift off to sleep, the music stops sooner than it usually does. I jerk awake and pull on the cord again. This time the music stops even sooner. I pull on the cord a third time and watch as the string only comes half-way down and the music doesn’t even get to the chorus. I’m wide awake as I try to pull the string again. It won’t move.

“Daddy!! Daddy!! My bear…is…is…broken!”

I take deep breaths so I won’t cry.

I can hear my dad’s feet walking down the hall.

“What’s wrong with your bear?” he says, standing in the doorway.

“Teddy won’t play music. See?” I demonstrate how the cord won’t even move.

I’m expecting him to say, “Oh well you just do this” and fix it. But instead he frowns and takes my bear to get a closer look. I want him to fix it right away. I’m never going to sleep ever again. One tear gets away before I can stop it.

“I’ll have to look at it some more to see what’s wrong.”

“Are you going to fix it?”

He pauses before he says, “I’ll try.”

Adults say that all the time. It means no when they don’t want you to get mad at them.
He takes my bear out of the room and into the living room where he watches the news after we go to bed.

Sniffling, I look up at the rest of my stuffed animals in their hammock at the bottom of my bed. He’s going to fix it, I keep saying to myself. Daddy can fix anything.

Chubbles! Still have him.

Chubbles! Still have him.

And that’s when I spot Chubbles.

Chubbles looks like a little bear from a movie called Star Wars that I’ve never seen. He has a little red jacket with a hood over his head and his eyes glow. Well, they used to glow. Whenever you would turn off the lights, the lightbulbs that were his eyes would blink and flash and he would giggle. I thought it was funny until he only worked some of the time. Then it was scary after weeks of him not saying anything. Eventually he stopped giggling and blinking at all.

I had asked my dad to fix him, too. But he said you can’t fix stuffed animals. There’s no place to put new batteries (I had figured out by then that everything needs batteries.). And if it’s broken, you’d have to cut him apart to fix the parts inside. I guess stuffed animals are hard to put back together again.

I don’t know how I’m ever going to sleep again. I’ve listened to Jingle Bells every night since my grandpa gave him to me last year for Christmas. I’ve never met my grandpa, but when I saw that white bear for the first time with his little green and red knit hat and his matching scarf, it was the most beautiful stuffed animal I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe he was mine. I bet if I met my grandpa, he’d be my favorite just like my bear.

My bear’s hat was sewed on but that scarf was always falling off. I wouldn’t go to bed unless he had it on. I even made my parents help me on the nights that it was really hard to find. They would sigh and moan and be cranky because they just didn’t see how important his scarf was. He’s my favorite teddy bear now, of course. I let him sleep in my bed every night even though it makes the other stuffed animals jealous. I love all my stuffed animals, but not like I love my bear.

I was quietly crying for a long time, but my eyes start to dry out and I can’t cry any more. My head starts to hurt. My dry eyes want to close, but I still can’t sleep. I can’t hear anything from the living room. Maybe my dad can still fix it but it will just take a long time.

I can tell it’s getting late because my mom has gone to bed and even my arms and legs feel tired now. I’m trying not to think about my bear and how it will never play Jingle Bells again when my dad shakes my shoulder. I jump a little because I had fallen asleep.

“Sorry,” my dad says. The hall light is off so it must be really late. “I thought you’d want him back tonight.”

“You fixed him!?” my voice sounds like a frog or like my little sister’s voice when she wakes up.

“Well…” He pauses. Oh no. He didn’t say yes right away. Teddy is broken forever! “Kind of. I had to pull out some stuffing and make a hole for the cord to come out. It had gotten clogged with stuffing and that’s why it wouldn’t work.”

I turn my bear over and look at the new hole in his bottom feeling a little sad that he got hurt. But when I pull on the string, it goes all the way down. Jingle Bells plays over and over again. I knew Daddy could fix anything! And he even fixed a stuffed animal which you can’t do. The hole is nothing to me compared to how happy I am that he works again.

I smile and say thank you very sleepily as I snuggle with my bear. Jingle Bells plays in my ear and this time I’m fast asleep before he even gets to the end of the song.

My bear. Still have him too.

My bear. Still have him too.

Flashback Friday: The Relationship Without A Label

Flashback Friday is where I post some of my own writing about my life. This story has a little more teen angst than what I usually write, but I hope you’ll like it. This really did happen to me, though I changed the names in the story. Also, I’m re-creating this just from my memory so I might have gotten a few things out of order. But it’s a true story, as best I remember it.  (P.S. If you know me in real life, this is just how I felt as a teenager. I don’t feel this way anymore! I’ve moved on and feel nothing but love and friendship for everyone in this story :)

I open the front door and Sean is standing on my front porch.

“Sean!” I say with a little too much surprise before I can stop myself. I shouldn’t be surprised to see him. We’ve been friends for 2 years, but he rarely comes over to my house, especially alone, because he’s usually with…

And that’s when I see his face.

I have a bad feeling that I know why he’s here. I hope I’m wrong.

He steps into my living room, but he doesn’t say anything at first. From the look on his face, I don’t think he can say anything.

“So, what’s up?” I ask to try and get him to talk.

“We broke up.” He doesn’t have to say who. My best friend. Lauren. They’ve been together for two years. Well, they used to be anyway.

“What happened?”

He shrugs sadly.

Neither of us says anything. I don’t know what to say. I can feel the silence, like it’s walked into the room with folded arms and is glaring at us. We both ignore it.

I can’t figure out why he’s here. Obviously he’s heart-broken, but he has lots of friends. Friends that are guys, friends that he’s closer too. It seems cruel and unfair that he’s here now. I was the one that introduced Lauren to Sean. I told Lauren all about the new kid in my class that I had a crush on. He was tall, maybe a little lanky but not too much. He had blond hair and blue eyes and was so easy to talk to. Lauren, Sean, and I all hung out as a group with a couple other guys a few times before he started asking Lauren out. I knew I should say something. I gathered all the guts I could and decided that I WOULD say something. But what? That I saw him first? She knew that. What sort of claim did I have on him? Lauren didn’t know him any better than I did. Truth was, I knew deep down that no matter what I said, no matter how fair I thought the universe should be, there was nothing I could say that would make him look at me the way he looked at her. So I didn’t say anything and I swallowed my jealousy. Hard. And over time my jealousy melted away until we really were friends.

So why is he here now? The look on his face has a small glimmer of hope in it. That’s when it hits me. Maybe he does have lots of friends, but none of them have been dumped before. I have. He just wants someone that will understand. And I do. I know that there’s nothing else to say about it and I don’t ask any more questions about what happened with Lauren.

“So….Do you want to go do something?” I ask him.

He nods sadly, but I think he smiles a little bit.

We did lots of things together that summer after our freshmen year at college. I think we spent almost every day together. We played video games on his Xbox, which I was terrible at. We blew up fireworks in July which he had waaay too much fun doing. He took me for a ride around his neighborhood in his go-cart. I yelled, “Yzma! Put your hands in the air!” as we flew around the corners. He laughed. I loved that he got my jokes.

In fact, we did a lot of things together that could have been dates. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wanted to date me now. I wanted to date him, but I could see it in his eyes – I was his second choice. It would be so easy to cross that line and be more than friends. But I couldn’t do it. I would always wonder if he had any real feelings for me or if I was just a rebound for him. It felt so unfair. We got along so well and had a lot in common. How would things have been different if I had been his first choice?

Eventually, we came to an unspoken agreement. I wouldn’t let him be alone but I wouldn’t be his rebound girlfriend. And so our non-dating, non-hand-holding relationship without a label continued.

One night, when I was over at his house eating dinner after teaching him how to make cookies the right way (Me: You’re not supposed to melt the butter. SEAN: Why? ME: I don’t know.) when my other friend’s mom came over and saw me sitting next to Sean eating dinner.

“Are you cheating on my son?” She asked. I choked on my food a little, and Sean covered his face with his hands and tried not to laugh (He was doing a terrible job. His face was red and his shoulders were shaking). Her son, Jake, was doing church service in another state for 2 years. And I was most certainly not dating him, though we had been really good friends in high school and I could see where she got that idea…My Gosh, I thought. Don’t I have any normal relationships?

Later that summer, Sean took me for a drive one evening. Every time we went somewhere, he always drove too fast and it gave him a slight bad boy streak that I couldn’t help finding attractive. I’m always teasing him to slow down and he makes a painful show of doing it. It makes me smile and it makes me sad at the same time. He always listens to loud screaming music and I usually let him, but I wanted to listen to something more mellow since the car was now parked on the side of the mountain over-looking the valley. When I ask him to turn it to something else, he did it immediately without putting up a fight. I was surprised because that didn’t seem like him. He sees my surprised look and quickly looks away. Oh. Lauren must of asked him to do that all the time. He doesn’t say it, but I can tell that’s what he’s thinking.

We sit in silence for a while, looking at the great view from the mountain, listening to relaxing music. Then he opens up about Lauren for the first time since he came to my house that first day. He talked about how she inspired him to be a better person. She was a good girl that never did anything wrong. And I’m not.

A knock on the window startles me.

A cop is standing outside of our car. I momentarily panic that we’ve done something wrong when he asks Sean to step out of the car. They talk for a while and then the cop motions for me to roll down my window.

“Are you here of your own free will?” The cop asks me.

“Yes….” What a strange question to ask. He finishes his conversation with Sean and as Sean is getting back in the car, I can hear the cop say, “…and mess around with your girlfriend somewhere else.”

I’m shocked! And indignant! Until I realize that we are sitting alone in his car on a dirt road on the side of the mountain somewhat late at night listening to jazz music. How ironic that we weren’t even so much as holding hands. Maybe I’m more of a good-girl than I thought. Too bad it doesn’t show.

One of the last things we did that summer was something I never thought we would ever do. We went to Lauren’s wedding reception. She got married at 19 and invited both Sean and me.

Sean went back and forth about whether he should go or not. Even the day of the wedding reception, he kept changing his mind while I sat on his living room couch in my dress in case he decided he did want to go.

He’s got his shirt and tie on now and says he’s going to go. I’m not holding my breath.

“No, I really am going. I’ve got to get my keys.” He walks downstairs to his room and I follow with a sigh.

I look around while he searches his messy room for his keys. I stop short in front of a picture on the wall. He’s got pictures of our whole group of friends when we were in high school. Some are individual pictures of each of us and some are group pictures. But he has a picture with just Lauren in it on the wall next to his door. I can feel my jaw drop a little. Why does he still have her picture up? When I got dumped the first thing I did was get a box and fill it with anything and everything that reminded me of him. How are you supposed to get over someone you’re still attached to? Why would Sean want a painful reminder of Lauren everyday? I don’t understand him as much as I thought I did. And I don’t think he’s getting over her.

Sean finds his keys and turns to see me staring at Lauren’s picture.

“I haven’t had a chance to take them down yet,” he says hurriedly. I nod and slowly turn back to look at the picture. He’s lying and he knows he hasn’t fooled me. But I don’t say anything as we walk out the door.

When we get to Lauren’s wedding reception, he starts pacing again. I wait patiently, but when he doesn’t say anything I ask, “Are you coming?”

“I will in a minute. Just give me a minute,” he says as he kicks the grass.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’ll catch up with you.”

I walk through the gate to Lauren’s back yard where her wedding reception is. I walk through the receiving line and give Lauren’s parents and then Lauren a hug. Her new husband seems nice enough. Then I get some cake from the table. Oh, how I love cake. I would go to a million awkward wedding receptions as long as they had delicious cake.

I sit down at a table on the patio with my cake when I see Sean walk down the receiving line. When he gets to Lauren’s parents, he gets a huge welcome. There’s a big hug from Lauren’s mom and a special introduction to Lauren’s husband. Lauren gives him a big hug, too. They talk for a long time before they let Sean go and the line gets backed up behind him. I don’t know whether that makes him feel better or worse. Probably both. They obviously like him, just not enough. I know the feeling.

Sean sees me and comes to sit next to me on the patio. We don’t say much as we eat and watch people move through the line.

“Things are changing, huh?” he says.

“Yep. They are.” We’re both going back to college soon. Maybe we’ll see each other. Maybe we won’t. But I hope our weird, messed up relationship meant something to him and that he won’t forget me wherever he ends up in life.

Flashback Friday: Halloween Costumes

Flashback Friday is where I post some writing of my life as a younger me.  I have a special Halloween Edition this week of all my Halloween costumes through the years.  Hope you enjoy!

2 years old

I’m 2 1/2 years old in my first Halloween costume as an adorable witch. I love the green paint splotches on my face.  And did I go trick-or-treating with an Easter basket?

6 years old

There isn’t another picture of my Halloween costumes until I’m six years old.  This year, my sister got to be the splotchy green-faced witch and I got to be a pumpkin.  My mom made our costumes.

7 years old

You guys, I was convinced that all my Halloween costumes growing up were horrible, but look how cute I am as a clown!!  My sister, Andrea, makes an adorable Princess.  My talented mom made both of these costumes as well.

8 years old

I think this is where my costumes start to got downhill.  I remember every year panicking at the last minute to get a costume together. I mean, I’m cute as an Indian but why those shoes?  And the weird sweater?  My costume seems to be made of two bandanas and a feather.  Andrea is the cute Princess again and my youngest sister, Kristen, is the pumpkin.  The other girl is my neighbor, Nicole.

9 years old

My sister has the cutest blond curls ever.  And look what an adorable cow she makes!  I think this is one of the only years that I had a store-bought costume.  My, what lots of red lipstick you have, Snow White.

 

10 years old

Hmm, this Indian costume looks familiar, but it’s been upgraded with a vest.  I like the face paint.  Kristen, the Princess.

When I was 12, I dressed up as Princess Leia (I don’t have a picture of it).  It was 2 days before Halloween and we were desperately trying to get a decent Princess Leia costume together.  We watched The Empire Strikes Back and decided to copy how Leia looks on the planet Hoth by braiding my hair and pinning it to the back of my head while I wore all white, including a heavy, white jacket.

Everyone thought I was a skiier.

But I’ll tell you what, I was warm that year with my winter coat on.  I could have gone trick-or-treating ALL NIGHT while my friends’ toes were falling off.  Take that.

 

14 years old

My last Halloween costume was when I was 14 and on the verge of being too old to trick-or-treat.  I’m the phantom with no face.  The question I got asked the most was if I was a boy or a girl.  Andrea has an awesome costume of Wednesday from the Addams’ Family and Kristen is a cute witch.  Does that hat look familiar??

So there you have it.  Every picture of every Halloween costume I ever had. Looking back, I remember a general feeling of panic every year at Halloween trying to decide what to be at the last minute and then scrambling to get a costume ready in time.  I think that even if we had gone to the store when I finally decided what I wanted to be, there wouldn’t have been anything left.  My mom was worried that they were just cheap.  Maybe that’s true, but I blame me and my procrastination for all my bad Halloween costumes.

I’m feeling this strange need to go out and buy a real Princess Leia costume and heal some emotional scars :)  Too bad I don’t have long hair anymore.  And this is me vowing that I will not wait until the last minute to buy costumes for my kids! (well, starting next year.  I haven’t gotten their costumes yet this year.  PANIC.).  I want just once in my life to have a kick-butt costume that leaves everyone jealous and in awe that I have carefully planned out.  Nothing can stand in my way!  Not even procrastination!!

What have been some of your costumes through the years?

Happy Halloween!

Flashback Friday: We’re In Paris!

Welcome to another Europe Edition of Flashback Friday.  My husband and I were crazy enough to take an 18-month old on a month-long tour of Europe while I was 4 months pregnant. It was ADVENTUROUS to say the least :) This is from May 2008 – our first day in Paris.

We spent four hours on the train yesterday getting here. We took a train from Bath to London and then from London to Paris. It was a long day of traveling and we were tired. We got to our hotel and thanks to the great map we had of Paris, we didn’t get lost this time. Europe is paved in cobblestones. It’s cute and charming but after walking everywhere on it, my feet are starting to hurt.

Rick Steves picks some cheap hotels with great locations, but they also come with some quirks. Our hotel in Paris is a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and right next to a Metro (Subway) stop, a supermarket and a laundromat (by the way, if you call it a “laundromat” in England you will get blank stares. We never figured out what they call them. We finally got communication going by asking where to wash our clothes.). But the hotel also has what Rick Steves calls a “beam-me-up-Scotty” elevator that could barely fit one person and maybe your luggage if you sit on it. We made three trips on it to get all our stuff to our room. Our room is so small that there’s enough room for only one person to walk around the bed and that’s it. My son’s porta-crib barely fits. We managed to wedge it in-between the door and the bed. If you want to leave while he is sleeping you have to do some serious gymnastics. Our room comes with a view of the Eiffel Tower. We can barely see the top of it, but still. It’s a view!

The next day, I was eager to go see the Eiffel Tower which was literally just around the corner. My husband is a lighter sleeper than I am. He didn’t sleep well the night before and he’s tired from the traveling yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I understand but the EIFFEL TOWER is right outside. I couldn’t sleep anymore if I wanted to. I feel like a little kid at Christmas. I get ready, pack the diaper bag and get my son ready all by myself so he can sleep in. When I’m done, I nag my husband to get up.

“Just let me sleep a little longer,” my husband moans. It’s 10 am now.

“But we’re in Paris! Why don’t you sleep when we’re in Utah with nothing to do?”

I get a moan from him as a response. I wait what seems like forever until I feel like I’m going to go mad waiting in our tiny hotel room to see something I’ve always dreamed about.

“Can you get up now?” I ask him. He doesn’t say anything.

“Come on! We’re young and in Paris! Sleep when you’re dead! Ugh. I’m leaving without you.” No response. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to see the Eiffel Tower now or die of excitement. I pack up the porta-crib so I can get the stroller out in the hall. He doesn’t take me seriously until I start strapping my son into the stroller.

“Wait! I’ll be ready in 10 minutes, I swear.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my husband it’s that he’d need a time machine to get ready in 10 minutes. Most likely, it will take him an hour. I plan to be back at the hotel before he’s done getting ready. I shut the door and leave without him, fuming mad that he slept in for so stinkin’ long. We have a limited amount of time in Paris and I intend to see everything. I’m mad that we wasted half the day when it’s so gorgeous outside. Much warmer here than rainy old London.

I realize as I get outside that I forgot my money and passport. I pause for a second to decide if I should go get them. My pride is more valuable and I leave without them, hoping that I won’t need them.

I cross the street and come to the end of the park, Champ de Mars, right across from the Ecole Militaire with the Eiffel Tower at the other end. The Eiffel Tower is stunning and so much bigger than it looks in pictures. The sky is bright and filled with fluffy white clouds. It’s perfect. All it needs is my husband to share it with. Stupid husband and his stupid sleep.

It’s Sunday and everyone is just lounging around the park and relaxing. I take a leisurely walk with the stroller and admire the gorgeous, clean park. I take out my camera to record it when this lady comes up to me and asks if I speak English. I say yes, happy to help. She shows me a piece of cardboard with lots of writing on it that basically says I should feel sorry for her and give her money or food. Ha ha, wouldn’t you know I’m not even lying to her when I tell her that I don’t have money. She ignores me and points to my camera like it proves I’m rich. Annoyed, I dig in the diaper bag and pull out a smashed Nutri-Grain bar, mad that she’s taking the little food that I brought for my son. She turns and walks away when I give it to her. After that, whenever we were asked if we spoke English, we said no. Which is ironic since they were asking us the question in English.

After she’s gone, I take some video of the Eiffel Tower and the park then start walking again. The park is massive; maybe even a mile long. My son falls asleep from our walk, so I sit down on a bench and bask in the nice breeze. I start eating the smushed sandwich that I brought when someone sits down next to me. It’s odd since there are many empty benches all around the park. I turn to look at them and what do you know – it’s my husband. I’m completely shocked that he found me in the huge park. I can’t help laughing and he’s positively beaming with the accomplishment of finding me.

Thank you random guy for chopping off the top of the EIFFEL TOWER which was the whole point of this picture.

We walk all the way to the Eiffel Tower together and I’m still in awe at just how big it is. There are long lines of people waiting to take the elevator to the top of the tower. Long lines are not good for toddlers and heights are not good for me, so we decided to skip it and just take a million pictures.

We had lunch at a cute cafe next to our hotel and dinner at an American-looking Chinese place. Two American tourists came in to the Chinese place while we were eating. They look like they are back-packing through Europe with their camping gear strung all over their back. We hear them start to argue with the owners about how this is abominable food and they want their money back. The owner says no and the American tourists start to leave, threatening to never come back. The owner says in response that he doesn’t want them to come back and that he hopes they keeps their promise. I love it here. Then the owner comes over to us and asks how the food is. We tell him it’s good. It tastes like regular old American-Chinese to me. I mean, it’s not a five star restaurant or anything, but I can’t figure out what those Americans were complaining about.

See how big it is?! That’s the LEG.

We also took a walk down Rue Cler today, which is an outdoor market. There’s fresh produce, meat, bread and cheese everywhere. There’s a flower shop on one corner and artisan booths selling all kinds of stuff. It’s utterly charming. I notice people pulling a large tote bag that has two wheels and a handle. It looks like luggage, but it’s open at the top and most of them are full of produce, bread and flowers. That’s when I realize there are no plastic bags here. Everyone brings their own tote bad for their groceries. I like watching everyone go about their daily business. Life here seems quant and lovely. I’m a little jealous. Life in the Western US is not nearly as beautiful as it seems here. I try to soak up as much charm as I can to take home with me to Utah before we head back to our hotel for the night.