A Simple Beauty
by Abigale Bennett
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I was 15 when my cousin fell in love with an Englishman. They planned the wedding and set the date for August 3, 2007. Only problem? The wedding would take place in England. I wanted to go so badly, but there was no way my family could afford to go. I was miserable for days. Iíd always wanted to go to Europe, and now I had a legitimate reason to go, but I couldnít. I knew it would hurt my parentsí feelings if I complained about not having enough money to go, so I turned to my best friend. We had owned Pal for about 6 months at that time, and I loved him so much. He really was my best friend; I loved to come home from school, go to the back yard, sit in a chair and talk to him while throwing his squeaky toy. Then, once he got tired (which took at least two hours), all 80 pounds of him would crawl up into my lap and lay there while I pet him. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time with Pal those next few weeks.
Then about a month after learning the date of the wedding, my grandparents called. Nannie and Grandpop believe that it is important that they spend time with their grandchildren before we grow up and move off, and they also feel that getting to see different parts of the world is important, so they have a tradition of taking their grandchildren on a trip once we turn 16. And since I was about to be 16, it was time to start planning our trip. I, of course, was overjoyed when they decided to take me to Europe for two weeks. Iíve always wanted to go to Europe but didnít believe it was possible. And I was even more excited when I realized they were planning our trip around my cousinís wedding; I would get to go!
The next few months were tortuous for me. I was so excited about going to Europe that I was unhappy with being at home. I counted the weeks, days, and hours until I would be on that plane and heading to Europe. Then, it was finally time. I told Pal goodbye, then Mom and Dad drove us to the airport, gave hugs, and watched as we passed through security. Two hours later, our plane took off, and I was on my way. We had a layover in Chicago for about two hours, then jumped back on the plane and headed to London.
When we landed eight hours later, I was exhausted. But my exhaustion could not suppress the excitement I felt. This was it! Iíd finally made it to the place Iíd been dreaming of for months. The next few hours were a blur. I received my first stamp in my passport (!), we grabbed our bags, purchased 15-day Euro-rail passes, stared at a map for about 20 minutes, and finally jumped on a train to Paddington Station. At Paddington, we hiked across the station and boarded a train that would take us to Slough. Once there, we dragged our luggage up and down a set of stairs and boarded yet another train that would take us to Windsor - our ultimate destination.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind. We got to our hotel, dropped our bags off, met up with my cousin and the rest of our family, went to lunch, and then went our separate
ways. My grandfather went to see a church with my aunt, uncle, and cousins; my grandmother went back to the hotel with me and slept. I had never experienced the phenomenon that is known as jet lag, so she figured it would be wise for me to sleep. And sleep I did. I honestly have no recollection of anything after reaching the hotel, but apparently my grandparents woke me several times, asking me if I would like to eat or shower. Next thing I knew, it was 8 a.m., and I was waking up in a foreign country.
The next day, August 2nd, was spent preparing for the wedding. We prepared the flower arrangements and set up the hotel for the wedding and reception (it looked absolutely beautiful), ate a quick lunch, and then went to Windsor castle for a tour. I was in heaven! It was so gorgeous, and I felt as though I could stay there forever. Upon finishing the tour, we walked through the gardens before heading to a restaurant for dinner. Then, we, once again, went our separate ways. The adults went to dinner, and I went with my cousins to yet another restaurant for dessert and the beginning of the bachelorette party.
When they decided to go to the pubs, I went back to the hotel and called my parents.
I was so incredibly happy. I can truthfully say that Iíve never felt so at home in a strange place before, and I was eager to share that with my parents. But when they answered the phone, I knew something was horribly wrong. My dog, my best friend, Pal, was dead. Theyíd found him that morning, lying on the patio. I felt as though someone had ripped my heart out of my chest. Iíd had Pal for a year to the day that he died, and he really
was my best friend. I loved the times he curled up in my lap and just sat there. It felt peaceful, and I wasnít afraid to let myself love him - I knew Pal would never hurt me; but my Pal-Pal was dead, and I hadnít gotten to say a final goodbye. I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in seconds.
As happy as I was in Europe and as amazed as I was by everything around me, all I wanted to do was go home. I needed to be with my parents; they understood how attached I was to Pal. But, alas, that was not going to happen. We were in England, my cousinís wedding was the next day, and I still hadnít been to Scotland or Ireland. My grandparents tried to comfort me, but it didnít make me feel better. I went to sleep early that night. Well, I went to bed, anyway, I didnít actually go to sleep; all I could think about was how badly I wished I were at home.
I wish I could say that my misery lessened as the trip progressed, but it didnít. I did, however, manage to put it on a back burner and concentrate on the amazing sights and
sounds all around me. From Windsor, we traveled to London and spent a couple of days sight seeing. We took a tour of Buckingham Palace, a bus tour of London that included the Eye of London, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, and Trafalgar Square, and ran into the British Museum. Then, we hopped on a train and headed to Scotland. My grandparents were not impressed with Glasgow, but I thought it was the most gorgeous place Iíd ever seen in my life. The architecture, the landscape, everything about the place made me feel better; though, I still wanted to be home. When we left Scotland, we headed for Ireland, but first, we spent the night in Chester, Wales. We didnít actually see much of it since we were only there for one night, but what we did see was gorgeous. Ireland, though, was, by far, my favorite country.
Iím not sure what it was, maybe the fact that being there meant I would be home soon, but I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be. The sights and sound of Dublin made me feel that my problems were inconsequential, and that God had a bigger plan for my life I would soon discover. I found a peace there -odd as it may seem. Though Iíd just lost my best friend and felt as though a piece of my heart had been ripped away from me, I found peace - a kind of steady feeling of serenity that encased my heart and made me feel better. Iím not quite sure how it happened - there wasnít an "ahhhh" moment, I just remember staring at the beach where Paul McCartney initially wrote the song "Yesterday," and feeling as though everything would be okay. Maybe that lake that lake is a place of inspiration. Or maybe it was just because that was the first time Iíd managed to laugh since hearing of Palís death. According to our tour guide, McCartney originally titled "Yesterday" "Scrambled Eggs" because he had eaten scrambled eggs for breakfast. They say laughter is the best medicine, and perhaps it is, because though Palís death still hurt, I was able to accept it and appreciate the pure simplistic beauty of the Old World surrounding me.
The journey home was uneventful. Well, it was if you can call a missed connection and hours of waiting in line to catch another plane uneventful. My parents picked us up at the airport and gave me especially long hugs. Upon reaching home, I sat in my backyard and just stared at the grass - wishing that Pal were there to greet me. The longer I sat there, the more I realized that I hadnít let myself enjoy Europe as much as I should have. I felt so guilty for not being with him when he died, that I had refused to allow myself to enjoy my trip. Oh sure, I expressed enthusiasm and enjoyed it outwardly, but on the inside it had barely registered; all I had allowed myself to think of was Pal and my desire to be home. Now that I was home, I couldnít wait to go back.
And as I sat there thinking about Pal and Europe, I realized that I always wanted to be somewhere else; I was never really satisfied being exactly where God placed me at the moment. No matter what was going on in my life, no matter how incredible the sights around me were, I always wanted to be elsewhere. Why? Why couldnít I be happy right where I was? The answer was unbelievably simple. It was in my nature as itís in the nature of all humans - just look at todayís society. The "need to have instantly" mentality that has gripped our culture and rocked our economy also applies to where we are. No matter how much money a person makes, they always want more. No matter how large someoneís home is, they always want one thatís larger. People are never content with what they have - no matter how much God has given them.
Even now, I feel myself longing to return to Europe. I canít explain why, but something about the pure beauty of Godís landscape, the culture of the countries touches my heart and makes me want to be there again. I am happy with where Iím at right now. In fact, I love everything about my life. I have gotten over Palís death, despite not believing it to be possible, and the life I have now is one that I could only have dreamt of two years ago. But if you were to ask me where I wanted to be at any given moment, my answer, without a momentís hesitation, would be Europe. Though I am extremely happy with where I am in my life, I still want to be somewhere else. I want to go back to the beautiful rolling countryside, the astounding architecture, and the awesome accents. Because despite, or perhaps because of, the turmoil my life was in the last time I visited, I found Godís peace in the simple beauty around me. A beauty that touched my heart, and soothed my troubled mind. A peace that still encases my heart when I think of Europe and somehow reminds me of the purity of the love I felt for my best friend. My Pal.
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