A long time ago, I was a traveling student in Europe. I dare say I may have been the first in my family to spend a semester abroad, in a time when it was just becoming a rite of university passage. I lived with a family in Amsterdam, learned to commute via bicycle to the American University, fell for “Frites mit mayo” from street vendors, and even spoke a little Dutch.
Since that long time ago, both of my children have spent some time abroad themselves in various ways from a high school summer program, to visiting friends abroad, and even a full semester abroad for Eldest traveling from Greece and Turkey to Spain and France.
Youngest knew a full semester abroad was too long for her. She had earlier visited a friend in Paris and knew well how both her sister and now her friend were “done with the experience” toward semester’s end. Not wanting to totally forego the European experience, she cleverly found a summer course abroad on European Art & Architecture. Like her sister’s experience, it was not lodged in one place, but required traveling from The Tate to the Louvre with final stops in Venice and Rome.
As luck would have it, Youngest’s route took her to Amsterdam for a tour of the Rijksmuseum featuring the amazing work of Rembrant, and the Van Gogh museum. Whereas I will be diligently trying to get tickets to the Van Gogh exhibit now in Philadelphia, she was at the master’s door.
I had been at the same door during my much earlier tour, where, I believe, I first fell in love with museum shops for souvenirs. All Van Gogh prints were well out of my budget, but I found one small poster from the store that I could afford. I rolled it up and gingerly carried it all the way home, where it has had a hallowed place, largely in bathrooms, in all my homes since.
Both kids grew up with the Van Gogh print in the house. But, probably because it was always there, no one ever paid it any attention, including Hubby. With Youngest going off to Amsterdam, I told her not to skimp too much on souvenirs because many stay with you for life. For proof, I walked her over to our bathroom print and, I believe, she really looked at it for the first time. “That’s a Van Gogh?!” she exclaimed.
“Well, a decent print of one, or as decent as I could afford at the time,” I admitted. “In the bathroom?” she admonished me. If you have the same question of horror — here’s why. I put things where I get the least resistance and still get to enjoy them!
Once in Amsterdam, Youngest texted me when she was standing in front of the original. Then, she sent me a postcard of it! When the postcard arrived, Hubby didn’t believe it was the same print hanging, yes, still in our bathroom. It took Eldest standing in front of the print with the postcard to prove to him it was, in fact, the same image.
What we see everyday goes unnoticed. For longer than I’d care to admit, my little Van Gogh image has hung in my house reminding me of a wonderful time during my own student years. No one every paid it much mind except me. But, with a new generation venturing abroad, everyone has finally seen it with new eyes.
As much as I value and encouraged the traveling experience for my children, I can also say, one does not have to leave home to gain a worldly view. One just has to take a fresh look at the hallowed walls of home and not take them for granted. Yes, “Mes enfants,” mother has ventured out of New Jersey!