My father’s side of the family comes from Germany, and as a young man during World War II, my grandpa returned to Europe and rolled over it in a tank. I’m on an southbound train from Paris, watching the countryside slide by now, and I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to see this autumn landscape in smoke and ruin. My grandfather was ordered to shoot out church steeples in hopes of killing snipers. This, he said repeatedly, was his major regret of the war- the part he played in the destruction of so many beautiful places.
If my view proves anything, it’s that pretty things have a way of reasserting themselves. There have been a few small and glorious villages complete with picturesque chapels to my right for most of this trip to Besancon. My first.
For the record, I’m a window seat girl. Windows are good for looking out of and for resting against. I tend to sleep on long rides, and on the aisle or in the middle, there’s no place to put my head. I’ll half fall asleep, then realize that I’m dangerously close to a stranger’s shoulder, On the plane from London to Paris, some perky undergrad on her way to a program in Nice cheerfully offered to let me lean on her. You know what would be worse than accidentally falling asleep on a stranger? Drooling on the nice girl who sweetly gave up all claims to personal space. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and downed a coke in an effort to stay upright.
This trip though, I’m up, coursing with the nervous energy of a big move. I’m wide awake with the almostness of the last part of this long trip from Atlanta to Valpo to Chicago to New York to Paris to Besancon. As of a couple of days ago, I’m so cosmopolitan. Now, I’m ready to settle in and learn how to be at home in this new place