Anyone want to go to the Eiffel Tower with me?
Dad already had his tweed jacket and hat on, heading for the door, and was clearly not waiting long for a taker. I was sitting at a small table in our hotel room, where my older brother by two years and my mother appeared ready to go to the airport. We had this one day left to our two week driving tour of Europe, and playing tourist had ceased to interest them. But I jumped up from my chair and said ME! The Eiffel Tower welcomes 7 million visitors a year, so when my father and I visited in 1969, there was a very long line for the elevator to the top. But that did not deter my father at all.
We’re going up, Susie.
My memory of that day is not the ride up in the elevator nor the view. My memory rests on my father’s joy over just being there. I was all of 15: he was 64. As young as I was, I could sense that this was something that meant a great deal to my father. Before we returned to the elevator line to go down, Dad told me to pick out a souvenir. I found a basket full of three-inch high copper-colored metal Eiffel Towers. On my next birthday, it will be my turn to be 64. I have moved here, there, and everywhere leaving a trail of precious possessions in my wake. But I still have that Eiffel Tower.
My father loved to travel. His first big adventures were month-long cruises on his 24-foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser from New York City to Lake Champlain in Vermont, the next summer pushing the envelope as far as the World’s Fair in Montreal. Another summer he rented a car and drove through France, Germany, and Switzerland. When Dad determined to find his roots in Ireland, he set up his base of operations for several summers in a thatched cottage in Ireland which lacked running water and electricity. Once that was complete, he moved on to Oxford University for summer study programs. During the winter, Dadskied Vermont most every weekend, and on spring breaks he ate his much-loved strawberry pie at Testa’s in Palm Beach.
My parents had two families, so to speak: five children within the first ten years of marriage, and then twelve years later, my older brother by two years, and me. Both surprises. My brother and I were five and eight when Dad set out on that first cruise up the Hudson River. The deal struck with my mother was if she chose not to go, for whatever reason, he still had to take the two surprises. This is how, from the age of five, I got to go where ever in the world my father went. When I fell in love with a Naval Academy grad, he cautioned that if I married him, we would move around a lot.
No problem, sailor.
I lost my father to cancer five years after our visit to the Eiffel Tower. When I am in conversation with a friend my age, and they mention a recent visit with their father, I am envious. How I wish I had my own father now. How I wish we could remember together that day in 1969 at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But more, how I wish I could repay him with daughterly love and devotion for giving me those experiences, enriching me in countless ways, all of which served to shape me into the woman I am today.
Which is why I have held onto my copper-colored three-inch high Eiffel Tower. For every time I see it, I say –