Europe For The Senses

Author/Photographer Vicki Liston blogs on her book and some interesting places she's traveled. "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal" was published under the name 'Vicki Landes'.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Traveling with a Child’s Perspective

Within a few short months of giving birth to our first child, my husband got word that the Army, in all of its wisdom, decided that moving us to the other side of the world was a good idea. This meant leaving behind everything familiar – family, friends, schools, church, our favorite Kansas City barbeque restaurant – and adapting to a new country, a new culture, and a new language.

My husband was thrilled as he’d always wanted to visit to Germany. Me? The word ‘livid’ comes to mind. I’d never traveled much, didn’t have much of an interest to leave my perfectly good home and strand myself somewhere new, but at this point I didn’t have a choice. We packed up every single worldly possession we owned, said our goodbyes to family and friends, and had our last sweet taste of that barbeque before heading out – my husband, me, and our then 9-month-old son. What I didn’t know at the time was that this would be the first of many trips we’d be taking.

It took a little while to adjust to our new life but Europe offered too many fascinating sites for my reluctant demeanor to resist. We traveled mostly on the weekends to sites in the area due to my husband’s work schedule but every now and then, my husband was able to take leave and off we’d go to someplace new. I had transformed from unwilling traveler to globetrotter and I wanted to ensure that our son really appreciated our various overseas trips, something his peers back in the states would probably never have the opportunity to experience.

We ended up staying in Germany for a total of seven years – four years more than originally planned – and I’ve come to realize that my son came away from those family trips with a much different takeaway than I did. Granted, that was to be expected during the first years. We visited the Louve in Paris when he was two-and-a-half and while I was commenting on the talent it took to carve the marble warrior figures depicting a gruesome battle scene, my son was overly concerned with their ‘ow-ies’. As he grew older, though, his appreciation for these priceless sites continued to be on a level very different from my own. One unseasonably warm February morning, we found ourselves standing in front of Michelangelo’s David in Florence. For me, David was absolutely profound. The brilliant Italian sculptor missed no detail as he carved this larger-than-life man - the bones in the hands, the contours of each muscle, the eyes with their thoughtful gaze - even the cold marble itself looks like soft, white skin. I stood in front of him deep in thought, feeling small and humbled in his towering presence. My curious son, unable to contain his question any longer, loudly whispered, “Mommy, why is David naked?” Knowing my son’s own fondness for that natural look, I simply replied, “do you know how you don’t like getting dressed? Well, David’s just having a ‘naked day’.” He took a couple seconds to process this reason, which seemed perfectly normal to him, and answered with an ‘oh, ok’ then looked back up at David with a new-found sense of understanding and commonality. As we walked around to view him from the back, I pointed out various intricacies to my son. I wanted him to see what I saw in this statue – perfection. My son responded as honestly as he could, loudly whispering in such a way that although he was talking to me, everyone around us could hear him, “mama, that’s a big booty.” What’s a mother to do? I’m trying to add a bit of culture into my preschooler’s life and his takeaways from David are that he’s having a ‘naked day’ and he’s got a big booty! Even years later at his current age of seven, I know he remembers going to these famous sites. When I asked him about the Tower of Pisa recently, he said, “yes! That’s where you bought me the Hulk candy and they had all those stands of junky toys!”

We’ve since moved back to the states and I enjoy reflecting on those precious seven years worth of travels that the Army blessed us with – 45 countries worth of trips, 364 weekends worth of family fun, and countless unique commentaries of the sites from my son. As I recall the places I’ve seen – breathtaking world heritage sites, museums full of priceless works of art, ancient castles that still stand strong, soaring cathedrals that take your breath away, or ruined cities that echo with its lost souls - it’s not my mature, educated appreciation that comes to mind. It’s the purity of my child’s perspective – his angelic view that breathes a fresh look into even the oldest of travel destinations. I will always appreciate the artistic technique of Michelangelo’s David, but I love him for being able to relate to my son’s aversion to clothing…and for having a big booty.


At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks for this! My wife, son and I are sitting in a hotel outside of Venice tonight and have often reflected on similar experiences and laughed out loud as a family as I read this to them. Our son and his friends call David the penis statue and remember Venice as the place they get the little flour filled ballons with eyes and hair pasted on them (we call them "bobbies").


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