Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 27, 2014

Special among the 28,000

The average person will awaken to something around 28,000 mornings. I’m already well past the half way mark and, when I look back, I cannot help but be impressed by how many of them were remarkably unremarkable. The many morning showers, trips to work, lunches, suppers and finally getting into bed at night all blend together. Even more singular events such as Christmas mornings have occurred in sufficient numbers that it is nearly impossible for me to recall something unique about each.

But certain days, or perhaps more accurately, pieces of them, stand out. Parts of the day I met husband-to-be Jerome is one such time. Another was the day he died. Parts of the days when the unexpected arrival of some roses that ultimately led to meeting husband Art and the births of daughters Mariya and Katie also stay fresh in my thoughts.

I think it is fair to say that most memory-generating days involve highly-anticipated events such as Christmas mornings and milestones such as graduations and weddings. But others are unexpected. I am unlikely to forget the day last May when I crunched our old Cadillac into a truck in Council Grove by not stopping quickly enough.

Still others sort of creep in under the radar. These are the times that we aren’t really aware are special at the time, but endure. I’m pretty certain one of those just happened. While some folks enjoy spending their money on nice furniture or new cars, Art’s and my weakness is our love of travel. We have visited Europe frequently and so have some difficulty separating one trip from another. But the one this year was unusual.

In truth, it wasn’t really expected to happen at all. The past couple of years have been extra busy and so we had sort of decided to stay home. But then we heard daughter Katie would be with her college choir in France, so we decided to tag along. After all, it would be effortless. We’d just go with the group and wouldn’t have to plan for airline tickets or places to stay or sites to visit.

Then we discovered the pretty-much forgotten connection between Morganville, Kan. and Fèves, France that had flowered after World War II and then faded. Since we would be in France for the choir tour, it wouldn’t be much of a problem to rent a car and drive to Fèves just to see what the place was like. That would represent minimal “mission creep.”

But Art’s digging into the details of the story inadvertently, but happily, reignited the connection between the two cities. At the end of last year, a couple from Fèves who had witnessed the earlier connection between the towns dropped into Morganville for a visit. We knew at that point that just stopping in Fèves for a few hours and then leaving would never do.

Daughter Katie and Art’s cousin Kris’s daughter Hannah then informed us that they would like to do the across-Europe trip this summer that they had been talking about for some time. Art thought that maybe we could make their launch into that adventure easier by having them join us at the start and then go on their way. Everyone agreed, but it complicated planning. More mission creep!

It just didn’t seem right for Mariya to be back in Kansas while the rest of the family was in Europe, so Art asked her if she was interested in joining us. He also didn’t tell anyone when she said “yes!” That way it could be a surprise - and more mission creep.

At Christmas, we spoke with Kris and husband Jim about how to handle the trip. Art mentioned in passing that none of us spoke French and so that would be a challenge. Someone volunteered that Hannah’s brother Ryan had taken five years of French. Furthermore, he was somewhat of a World War II history buff with a particular interest in Gen. George Patton. Art knew it was Patton’s Third Army that had liberated Fèves, so it seemed like Ryan might find the visit fun. So we invited him along.

Then Mariya added to the mix by asking Art if she could return to Boston rather than Kansas so she could visit friends there. In addition, Katie’s boyfriend Matt decided to travel with us for a couple of days.

As a final surprise, Art secretly made plans with “adopted” German daughter Nadja to fly in from Berlin for a three-day visit!

So what we thought would be our “off” year turned into a more than five-week affair that was the most complex trip we had ever planned.

As I write this, Katie and Hannah are still trekking across Europe, but the rest of us are now home. Looking back, it all unfolded quite well.

Yet the situation was unique. Katie and Hannah are nearing college graduation. Mariya is poised to take on some jobs that may in the future keep her in Kansas in the summer. Ryan just finished high school and will start college in the fall. Nadja has completed her master's degree and is starting a new job. And Art and I? Well both cafés and castles were part of our trip experiences this year. But while the others are in the period of their lives where their energy levels are still expanding, ours are heading in the other direction. Sitting at a street-side café is becoming more and more appealing, while the desire to climb anything is waning.

But the combination of action-packed and relaxed activities, our assortment of fellow travelers, meeting the people of Fèves and seeing the village with our own eyes, all served to make a memory that will stand out for all of us. I doubt these summer days in France will get lost among the 28,000!

Left: Visiting Malbrouck Chateau. Left-to-right: Art (on steps with back to camera), Matt, Ryan, Katie, Hannah and Mariya; right: Lunch at a restaurant in the German town of Trier. Mariya, Katie, Hannah, Ryan and Art.

Sitting down to a breakfast featuring crepes cooked by Ryan and Hannah in Villa Blanche, our home-away-from-home in Metz. Katie, Mariya, Ryan, Hannah, Art and Nadja.

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