Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Furthest Place I've Ever Been

Daddooooo's parents wanted to send me to Israel.  My mother refused to let me go until they sent my older cousin first.  Her parents did the research, sent her away, she returned in one piece.  That was good enough for G'ma and Daddooo; they signed me up without doing much more looking.
I had a boyfriend.  I had a brand new license and a brand new yellow Austin America and I was a high school graduate.  Did I want to go?  Not really.  But how could I say no?  So, I went.  Flew to Amsterdam (there were bunnies on the runway as we landed) on Sabena Airlines, which gave each of us a travel bag - promptly renamed Sabaga Beans.  Anne Frank's House, the edges of the Red Light district, the canals and then trains to Zurich and Milan and Rome and Florence, probably not in that order.

We went through Germany, not France, because the French were refusing to deliver fighter jets the Israeli's had paid for and the organization running the tour would have no part of spending any dollars in France.  So, twenty Jewish kids changed trains in the middle of the night in Karlsruhe.  None of us spoke German, there was no Information Please person to ask, and no clue beside which of the several-in-each-direction raised platforms our next ride would arrive.  

Hours passed.  It wouldn't have been so bad if Juden wasn't on the lips of the more-than-you'd-expect-there'd-be-in-the-middle-of-the-night passersby. We sat very close together, except when one of us would run to see where an arriving train might be headed.  I spent the nigh wishing that my parents had done more checking about Teen Tours.

There was a sea voyage to Greece and then another to Israel.  Mediterranean Blue was my favorite color until I saw Lake Tahoe.  

Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon while I was traipsing across the Israeli desert.  Did I recognize the importance?  Hardly.  I was  trying not to fall off the side of a mountain while wearing strappy sandals.  Should the Israeli guides have told us to wear sneakers?  Probably.  They also should have told us to bring lots of purified water, not the carbonated orange drink which usually sustained us. 

That's my most vivid memory of the furthest place I've ever been - clinging to a mountainside, loose gravel and slippery sheets of stone beneath my pretty-but-useless sandals, a rocky crevasse to my immediate left, my mouth totally dry (from fear?  from thirst? from saying Oh No Oh No Oh No over and over again?), and being pissed as all get out that they had taken us there so unprepared.  

Then the path widened and flattened and broadened into the most beautiful valley on the planet, a valley filled with goats and a lovely lady who greeted the disheveled, hungry, thirsty kids with pitchers of goats milk. We drank with reckless abandon, then rolled down the rest of the hill like kindergarteners.  

That was the thing about Israel - there were soldiers with guns everywhere, hitchhiking and taking the bus and standing on the street corners, but they were all Jewish.  So were the policemen and the garbage collectors and the politicians.  That feeling, of being one of the many, is my second most vivid memory.

There were funny things - standing on a crowded bus, a tiny human squished between curvy, unrestrained-by-undergarments women who neither bathed nor shaved their armpits. There were amazing things - walking right into Mayor Teddy Kollek's office in Jerusalem, catching him in the middle of a pastrami sandwich lunch.  He put down the food, hugged the strange American girls, and helped us find the items we needed for our Teen Tour Scavenger Hunt.  True story.  

Letters were the only way to stay in touch, and G'ma wrote to me every single day.  I took dozens of rolls of film, and there are but two pictures of me, both atop suitcases waiting to go someplace else, neither of which has any identifying characteristics.  There's no way to verify that I was ever in Europe at all.

I came home to no boyfriend, a mother who sent my high school yearbook photo, the-worst-ever-I-can't-believe-you-did-that-without-asking-me picture, to the Freshman Pig Book (ah, yes.... more on that sometime), and two weeks before I left to go to college.  

Re: the prompt - it felt VERY far away the whole time I was gone.


  1. What a neat adventure! We have a granddaughter leaving tomorrow for Florence for a month of studying. So excited for her. I hope her experience is not quite as exciting as yours!

    1. It was unusual for a kid to go off to Europe when I graduated. I wish I had gone someplace to study, rather than touring. We saw the surface; I was interested in the depths.


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