Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wanderlust Librarian | An Adventure of Epic Proportions

Gift giving comes from the heart. It comes from a good place where opportunity and thoughtfulness meet with a warm embrace. Giving the gift should touch your heart and the heart of the receiver. One of the best gifts I ever gave didn't cost me a lot, but the emotional payoff for the receiver was more than I could have ever imagined.

I met 17 year old, Don (name changed for privacy) when I was working a smaller library. He was a good kid. He met friends at the library so they could use their laptops, volunteered to help with the Teen Programs, got decent grades and was just an all around good kid. About 4 years ago, I was planning my trip to London with my best friend, Lizzie. We had the opportunity to go to Paris for a couple of days and (after speaking with my daughter, Scout) had made the decision to go.

Like a good researcher, I checked out guide books from the library about Paris to make a list of things I wanted to see. I was really excited about my trip to Europe. My library was a small, neighborhood library, so most of the patrons and all of the staff knew about it. One of the big decisions I had to make was going up the elevator in the Eiffel Tower. I am ridiculously afraid of heights and didn't know if I wanted to spend money on something that scared the tar out of me.

Don came up to me one day and said "You have to go to the Eiffel Tower. It's really cool. I know you said you were afraid of heights, but you really need to go." With a few quick steps, he had left my desk and was soon at a table with his friends. 

I was intrigued. It wasn't WHAT he said, but the WAY he said it. He sounded so sure and confident. He also sounded like he knew what he was talking about. It caught me off guard and I wanted to talk to him a little bit more.

I was able to pull him aside to tell him that I was curious about what he had said a few days before. In low, hushed tones, he told me a tale that was jaw dropping. A couple years prior, his parents had left him in the care of his older cousin (25 years old) while they went to visit some family in Mexico for a month. The older cousin had thrown the idea out of going to Paris for a week. Don had a passport from his family visits to and from Mexico and some money saved from chores and a part time job...he made the snap decision to go. Within a couple of weeks, he and a handful of cousins flew to Paris. Don told me that they stayed in a hostel and just spent their days wandering the streets, eating pastries and visiting famous sights. His eyes lit up when he talked about the Louvre. He recounted how he and his cousins knew no French, but managed to get around town. He talked about climbing the stairs in the Arc de Triomphe, getting to the top and watching the circle of cars whirl around and around the base. His whirlwind trip was a success; with his parents having never known that he went. Don didn't buy any souvenirs for fear that his trip would be found out. The only thing he had was a picture of him and his cousins in front of the Eiffel Tower that he thoroughly hid. He brought it in to show me the next day.

In relation to my own trip planning, I thought of Don in Paris and how a journey so epic had to remain mum. I found it amazing that the other cousins hadn't let the secret slip. Don said the cousins left his name out of any storytelling and he did a lot of the picture taking so he wouldn't be found out.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris, I went to one of the gift shops to look around. There was a little metal Eiffel Tower / Arc de Triomphe statue that just called to me. It beckoned me to take it back to Don. I purchased it immediately.

When I returned to work, Don came to ask me how my trip went. I regaled him with stories of my travels. I told him that I had something for him. I wanted him to know that this gift for him could be a physical representation of his trip. He would be free to  display the little statues without fear of being found out and honestly tell his parents he received it as a gift. But...that really, both he and I knew that it was a symbol of a great trip.

I reminded him that he went to Paris first and that I was grateful that his moment of honesty and excitement helped me to (one time) conquer my fear and embrace the experience. When I finally made it to Paris (saving this for another entry), I DID go to the Eiffel Tower and I went up the elevator. It was scary.

As I had mentioned before, Don came into the library a lot. When I was told I'd be transferred to a new library, I welcomed the new challenge...but I was also sad. I would miss my co-workers and the patrons that I had grown to know. 

It's been a while since I've seen Don. Once in a while one of his friends will come to the library to say hello and I'll inquire about him. As far as I know, he's going to college in the area. 

If I ever see him again, I'll ask him these questions: 

Did he ever let his parents know about his adventure abroad?
Has he gone since?
Does he still have the statues?

The one question I will never need to ask: 

Do you regret going to Paris? 

....I will never need to ask that question, because I already know the answer. 

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of the line from Casablanca: "We'll always have Paris."