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Lions Roar : May 2013
Vipassana meditation with four years of high school French, was available to come and help with the kids. I had enough reward miles to get at least one of us a plane ticket. Plum, my youngest daughter, was old enough to lug her own suitcase around with- out help. It was time to go. We borrowed a flat in Montparnasse and slept on thin mat- tresses on the floor. The Eiffel Tower was in our sight lines, but there were still hurdles. One of the elevators to the top of the tower was broken. Advance tickets had sold out months before. There was a two-and-a-half-hour wait to get into the tower’s middle floor, then another long line to the one elevator to the top. We were all jet-lagged, and both kids were developing colds. We went anyway. We arrived at 7:30 p.m. with a backpack full of water, sweat- shirts, and the last of our carefully hoarded pretzels from the plane. We settled into the back of a line that spanned the plaza and spilled down the sidewalk. I heard snippets of Japanese, French, English, Spanish, German, and other languages I couldn’t recognize. In less than thirty minutes, we were restless. Luna needed to pee. Plum was thirsty. My mother, who had been trooping all around Paris, wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down. I glanced longingly at the grass nearby. My mom could rest and I could go with the girls to take care of their needs, but we’d lose our much-coveted place in what was now a three-hour line. Then I noticed the person waiting in front of us. He was a sol- idly built man in his mid-seventies, with pale skin and a balding crew cut. He wore khakis, mirrored aviator sunglasses, a button- down shirt, a silver fighter-jet pin, and a slight frown. American, I guessed, but a culturally different kind of American than we were. I doubted that we had much in common. Still, needing a little help, I said hello. It turned out his name was Jim and he worked at an Air Force base only a few hours from where we live in California. He was in Paris on his honey- moon and was waiting for his wife. He offered to keep our place in line for as long as we needed, and we rushed to the bathroom while my mom made a grateful beeline for the grass. When we came back, Jim’s wife, Linda, had joined him. She had a warm smile and short gray hair and cheerfully told us that the whole honeymoon trip had been a big surprise. She hadn’t even known where they were traveling until they got to the air- port. But when she looked up at the Eiffel Tower, Linda’s smile disappeared. She was terrified of heights, she admitted, and didn’t even like going to the second floor of most buildings. By the time we had got near the front of the line, we had become one group with our line mates. When I took Plum to find some water and the guard didn’t want to let us back in the line, Jim and Linda protested. When we finally got to the front and they tried to put us in two separate groups, we linked arms, refusing to be separated. As soon as we were packed into the elevator, all of Luna’s excitement evaporated. She has a fear of elevators and hadn’t quite understood that traveling in one was a required part of SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2013 30