Sitting at an outdoor café three blocks from the Rome Termini one morning 24 years ago waiting for my friend Julie to arrive, I had no appreciation of the folly of our planning. In the days before cell phones, all I knew for sure was that Julie was scheduled to arrive from the United States that morning. I told her I’d meet her at the coffee place a few blocks from the station. I had no idea if her plane got off on time, I didn’t even have anyone to call to find out if she’d gotten off okay. If she hadn’t eventually, and pretty timely, walked toward me rolling her suitcase behind her, I’d have even more of a memory of that day than I currently do.
Watching the Fourth of July fireworks on Peach Lake last night, I enjoyed without trying to etch the experience into my soul. I’m fairly certain I’ll see fireworks again on another Fourth of July, in another year, in many years. I don’t necessarily have to remember them because they’ll always be there.
But, try as I might, I’m not sure I’m going to get to Kizhi again, or back to Galapagos, or to Yvoire, a tiny town in France just over the Swiss border. I’d like to make it back to Hamburg someday to see the completed Elbe Philharmonic Hall, but I’m not sure that I will. How do we, should we, travel to take as many memories as possible with us?
I try to write down as much as I can, but when I’m in the adventure, I’m not as dedicated as I should be. I go back and forth on how many photos to take: Should I engage in the experience or simply record it?
Plenty of images available on the web remind me of the major attractions; it’s the little things that I worry I’ll forget. That leaning house in Rouen, the carnival in Basel, ice cream spaghetti in Berlin, how so many small towns in France seem to claim Thérèse of Lisieux as their own patron saint.
How do I know what I will bring back or for how long I will retain it? I don’t know and can’t say. But I remember that bright sunny morning so many years ago when my friend appeared, as she’d said she would, and walked toward me on a street in Rome.