The first time I really became aware of the world outside my own immediate existence was when I was 9 years old. It was when I was in 4th grade. We were given an assignment to write a report on the European country doled out to us. I got France.
Being the type of student that I was, I dove in, scrounging up everything of interest to me that I could (that was still relevant to the subject of the report), and I fell in love. I just didn't realize to what extent it at that time. Regardless, I already felt the stirrings inside to visit the country I'd written about that was half a world away...
In fifth grade, my teacher (Mrs. Simpson) taught us a few words in French. I pretty sure that it was only counting to 10 and then a Christmas carol in French. Hearing the language, and then being able to not only hear it being sung, but getting to sing it myself cemented it for me.
I was absent the day we were assigned countries to write about in 5th grade, and I got "stuck" with Luxembourg, while the boy I had a crush on got France. I remember the deep disappointment, and even having tears in my eyes. Some of them may have even escaped. But regardless to the extent I expressed my emotions, he noticed, and he offered to trade with me. (I think that may have even prompted me to like him more! LOL)
It was then that I discovered Joan of Arc. And it was also in 5th grade, in a family tree/heritage project that I discovered that my mom's side of the family has ancestral ties to the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. From that point on, there was no denying it. I wanted to experience France. The food, the language, the history, the culture, the landmarks (and specifically Paris!)...all of it. I wanted it more than I had wanted anything else in my life.
And that desire stuck with me.
And every attempt to make it to the country where my heart was evaded me. Two of my best friends in high school got to go on a school trip to France without me.
When I found out, then, that we were moving to Italy after The Instigator completed his tour in Korea, I was on cloud nine. Italy is so close to France! I googled how far away it was. I researched the fastest ways to get from Aviano to Paris. I switched the google maps to the satellite view of the city, and stared at a computer screen showing me an aerial view of the Eiffel Tower, and cried happy tears.
Flying over France to get to Italy, it was dark out. I could see nothing of France.
I went twice to the UK; once to Edinburgh and once to Yorkshire. Both times, flying out from Italy, the cloud cover over France was so ridiculous, I saw nothing of it, either direction of flight. I literally had tears of disappointment and longing coursing down my face.
While we were stationed in Italy, I never made it to France. I got to go to Venice (two or three times), made it over to Tuscany, went down to Verona, participated in an organized trip to Austria (for the Christmas Market!), and as aforementioned, flew twice to the UK. I was certain that we were going to sent back to the States, and that I'd have missed my chance. Every day that we were without follow-on orders, I lost hope that we'd get to stay overseas. I was seriously on the verge of an emotional breakdown about it. It took a lot of prayer and a lot of effort before I was finally able to just let go and let God take control. The very next day we got orders. To Germany. To whatever extent I celebrated and exulted over Italy, multiply that by about 10, and that was my reaction. I was moving closer to France! I would only be a four hour drive away from Paris!!!!
Yesterday, a dream came true. Something that I had been wanting since I was a little 9-year-old girl. It finally came to pass.
I. Got. To. Go. To. France.
It's not Paris. Not yet. But I went to France.
TO BE CONTINUED......