Sunday, October 14, 2012

Among the Ruins in Rome

While I'm away on a little mini-vacation, I'm taking you back to our BIG vaaction.  Back to Italy for a quick visit to Rome.
In spite of what everyone has advised, we are here in the Roman Forum at 1:30 pm on a hot, hot,hot day in the extreme sun — midday in the peak of the heat.  We have spent the morning at the Coliseum, luckily a 15-minute walk from our hotel because there is a transit strike today.  You really don't comprehend its magnificence until you are right smack up against in, in it, and see the size of you and the enormity of it.  How could it ever be built in those times and still standing?

My husband Chris is the historian of the family.  The one who immerses himself in the past and enjoys every bit of minutia he can find on just about any subject.  The Romans ?  Absolutely.  I feel awful because the Rick Steves audio tour of the Forum and the Coliseum I now cannot find on my still-new-to-me iPhone.  Fortunately we got the studio guide to the Coliseum though coordinating the guide, the map and the buttons was a challenge to we Luddites.  I ask a teenager from Canada who tries to find them but has no luck.  I feel better. It’s not just me.

All those Hollywood films Spartacus, Barabbas, Ben-Hur, Gladiator — they come to life here as you see the crumbling monument of what was the real spectacle — the Coliseum, this massive structure of spectacular proportions.

Having circled high and low for hours, we've made our way to what remains of the Forum, but I cannot take another hour of rocky remains in the blistering sun. While Christopher trudges toward the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Rostrum and the Arch of Septimius, I sit in the shade on a millennia-old block of marble while the breeze blows soothingly on me and all around people are starting and stopping, checking their maps and guide books, babbling in Russian, German, Italian, and Japanese.  Across the expanse of ruins, testament to the glory that was and is Rome, I see my husband, a speck in the distance — another tourist soaking up the history, archaeology and topography of the ancient city.  Then I lose sight of him in the sea of specks and after five minutes begin worrying that he's collapsed behind a pile of Roman rubble with sunstroke.  

This feeling of panic reminds me of another vacation long ago when we took the kids to see the Grand Canyon. 

They all wanted to climb down into the canyon.  We started out at 8:30 am but I know my limits — it looked scary.  People on mules went skittering by.  It was brutally hot but the three of them wanted to start down a ways, so I said I would wait.  We found a small rock niche where I could sit in a bit of shade, and off they went. Two hours went by.  They didn’t come back.  I screwed up my courage and slowly walked down, keeping as far from the edge as I could, hugging the canyon wall without scraping my skin against the rock.  I went through a big arch and rounded a bend and didn't see them anywhere.  I turned and headed back to my little rock perch.  Three hours had gone by and I was panicking.  People who had walked down the canyon well after they did were coming back. I began asking people, “Did you see a guy with a bandanna and two teenagers down there?”  No one had.  My panic was rising. I stopped a ranger told him that he needed to get help, that I was sure something had happened to my husband and the my kids.  They had no hats, no water, nothing.

The ranger wiped the sweat from his brow and said patiently, “M'am, if they left before 8:30 this morning and haven’t come back, then they’ve gone down to the three-mile point and won’t be back for at least another hour. Get out of the sun. Get something to eat.  They’ll be back by then.”

So I trudged back to the room at the lodge took a shower and laid down to wait.  And sometime around 2:30 that afternoon (actually 2:20 pm, almost six hours after they left) my son burst into the room, dripping sweat, covered in red dust and dirt, yelling, “MOM! MOM! MOM! We’re OK!  I ran ahead, because I knew you’d be worried but they’re coming — and we’re all okay!!!”

This time the wait was not six hours but more like forty-five minutes. Chris emerged wiping the sweat from his brow — eager to tell me about all he'd seen — here among the ruins in Rome.

No comments:

Post a Comment