1977: I turn 20

1977: I plan a three-month trip to France for the summer. I’ll spend two weeks in Alès with a French family, four weeks in Paris at the Sorbonne, and I’ll travel. I ask Davidson for funds and for credit. I get both. As night falls on the last day of exams of my sophomore year, I board a Trailways bus for Washington–I can still see that dark North Carolina night, feel the bus window cold against my cheek. In DC, I take a taxi to the airport, fly to NY, and then to Paris. I have a Eurail Pass and a red-covered Let’s Go Europe. My first night in Paris, I stay across from Notre Dame at the Hotel Esmerelda, which still exists. It’s a tiny room–I have to move a chair to close the door–and the window won’t lock. There are no cell phones, but my parents have my itinerary. From time to time, I wait at the post office to call home. When my boyfriend decides to fly over to travel with me for a few weeks, I ask him to bring me another sweater. At the end of summer, I have a week at home before heading back to school for my junior year. Somewhere along the way, my mother tells me the good guys go fast. And I believe her. On the next to the last day of the year, I voluntarily give up my freedom for love. Part Two, I hardly knew you.

40 days to 60


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

8 thoughts on “1977: I turn 20

  1. YIPES. I know your story and that still slapped me in the face. Maybe it’s the way you worded it: “I voluntarily gave up my freedom….” The good guys go fast, huh? The guys go fast, period, meaning they MOVE so damn fast, at that age, and we always felt we had to move with them. Thank goodness for my father, who was always trying to slow me down. Oh, mothers of yesteryear, WHY???

    Still. What’s that quote about a wild and precious life? You have made such a good one. And that’s the frustrating thing about regrets–they’re just a way to slap ourselves around in the present. You know damn well you made the only decision you could make at the time because of who you were in that moment and the next moment and the next. Do-overs would result in exactly the same situation b/c you can’t change who you were. And you were pretty great. Which is why you’re even more wonderful now.

    YOU MUST LOCK THAT WINDOW SOMEHOW. Once more proving I was a gibbering gerbil at that age, I would never have been able to sleep with an unlocked window in the middle of a city.

    Happy 20th….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why is it our memories of these formative years are so powerful?? We can remember them like they were yesterday. Sometimes I think if I just envision it more profoundly, I can transport myself back in time and really be there again. This is mostly when I am falling asleep or waking in the early hours.

    Liked by 1 person

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