Smart Beautiful Wonderful Daughter, who is spending the semester in the City Where People Buy Fish and Chips Sprinkled with Vinegar and Wrapped in Newspaper, sent me some photographs over email. She has been gone for almost two weeks, so I was excited to see a picture of her, looking healthy and happy. And older, somehow.
My parents have a framed photograph of me that was taken when I was a college student living in European City Once Famous for Fog. In the photo, I am standing outside of the Towers Where Lots of People got Beheaded, and I am flirting with one of the guards. So my daughter sent me her imitation of that photo: she is flirting with the guard outside of the Palace Where the Royal Family Sometimes Lives. It is strange to think that my daughter is as old now as I used to be.
Seeing the photos brought back memories for me: during my semester abroad, I spent hours and hours wandering around by myself in the City Where Color is Spelled Colour. I had classes in the morning, but then my afternoons were free, and I used to just explore. I would wander into bakeries just to stand and smell the fresh bread, or flower shops just to get that moist smell of cut flowers. I'd look at the different kinds of architecture everywhere: grey stone churches, little shops tucked below stone arches, balconies and statues, carefully designed parks. I'd hurry along the grey sidewalks, staring in all directions at once, and then when my eyes were tired from so much stimulation, I would find a cosy place where I could drink afternoon tea from a smooth china cup.
I love to walk around and get the feel of a city. Each has their own personality. Big City Like No Other always seems so fast-paced to me, just being there makes me speed up and rush around like everyone else. Midwestern City With the Loser Baseball Team always seems as friendly as a small town to me. When I am in French City With Eiffel Tower I want to slow down, sit in a cafe – just eating and talking and people-watching.
During my semester in City With Great Theatres, I loved the tradition of afternoon tea, drinking hot tea and some kind of chocolate pastry, and then wandering through the streets aimlessly. Looking at my daughter's photographs made me think of those afternoons, the way the grey light shone from the buildings onto women selling flowers, the old man roasting chestnuts, and the children playing on the steps. I can just feel the damp chill of late afternoon, and remember the way the lights would go on inside buildings, as afternoon moved slowly into evening, time for me to head back to my flat and then to the local pub where I would gather with my friends for the evening.
Photo taken by Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter.