Inspiration

By Janice McCaffrey AKA Madge Wood

Where does inspiration come from? Sometimes from life experiences.

Marseille, France

Janice McCaffrey Goodison with daughter Bonnie, Marseille

Excerpt from Plans Interrupted by Madge Wood

May 4, 2016

After the scheduled light lunch our tourist itineraries said, ‘free time.’ That meant being on our own, to do some local shopping and refresh our classroom French.

I’ve spent most of my adult life going along, mostly with my husband, and since his death, with my son. But on this my first trip abroad and my first trip anywhere alone, I’d promised myself that I’d regain the confidence I had as a girl. This day would mark my first step. So, casting restrictive diets to the wind, I made my way to the ice cream shop I’d read about in the hotel information brochure.

I ordered one scoop of the berry-red framboise sorbet. The clerk answered my ‘merci beaucoup’ with a pleasant laugh and head nod. My attempts at his language pleased him. The sorbet, cold, creamy and delicious on my tongue, pleased me. My ‘C’est Magnifique’ received an even broader smile and several nods. I promised myself I’d find my way back here for sure.

I wandered the narrow streets climbing up and down sidewalks some so steep they had steps. It didn’t take long to realize that Old Europe’s terrain necessitated their construction. Most ancient structures have many levels with, of course, no elevators. I counted each step, up and down, for fun, but also to distract my brain from the discomfort of ever-tightening calf muscles. I hoped I’d be able to walk the next day.

According to the guidebook Fort Saint Jean had been built at the entrance to Marseille’s port in sixteen-sixty by Louis XIV, but unlike most, this citadel’s original cannons pointed inward as a warning to the residents. Rumors had circulated about townspeople planning an uprising against the governor.

As I strolled along its rampart’s seagulls screeched overhead. The fort’s worn terra cotta bricks radiated the heat of the afternoon sun. The view from the promenade included the city’s skyline, the port, and the glistening sea.

The warmth of the early May sun caressed my face. I breathed in the cloudless azure sky wanting it to fuse with my soul. Another American tourist checked his Smartphone and announced that the current temperature read sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit. Marseille’s sixty-four degrees touched my skin much gentler than any sixty-four degrees I’d experienced back home.

A light breeze off the Mediterranean Sea teased what my mother had called my dishwater-blond hair. I wondered what she’d tag it with its gray streaks. I tried long tresses in my youth, but my fine hair always hung limp and stringy. At my age a one-length bob suited not only my hair texture, but my lifestyle as well.

Sigh. Alone in this romantic setting, I could pretend to be young and adventurous, as long as I avoided my reflection in shop windows.

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