"Whoa!" Not terribly eloquent, I know, but it's all I had. My eyes were frozen to the robin's egg blue of the lake, looking out at the opposite shore. The scent of rosemary and old olive groves was all around us and the only sound was the slip-slap of the swans' feet as they made their way to shore to beg for crumbs.
We had hiked to the tip of a peninsula that jutted out into Lake Como, an immense hot-spring-fed lake. The entire trip was surreal. We had spent the day before exploring the old castle in the town of Sirmione, watching our toddlers scramble up the stone stairways to the castle keep, only to be frustrated when they got there that they were too short to peek out and yell to the tourists below. They were delighted with the authentic drawbridge and the swans that swam in the moat, and when we made our way back down and dipped our toes in the water we exchanged wide-eyed looks, amazed at how warm the lake was.
We had heard that there were some impressive Etruscan ruins at the end of the peninsula, so we boarded a decidedly 20th-Century tourist train that would take us most of the way, saving our kids' short legs and our adult short-tempers. After getting off the train we walked up a hill where we could see for miles, circling around the ruins. I couldn't fill my senses enough with the colors and smells and didn't want to move. The tugging of my littlest on my shorts brought me back to the present. The view would have to wait.
My husband began explaining to our four-year-old that what we were looking at were the remains of castles built hundreds of years before. "They're called ruins," he said, picking her up to have a look over the crumbling walls. We walked through the grassy "hallways" imagining how majestic these buildings must have been in their time and my youngest daughter began to cry softly. As she lifted her arms skyward and looked at me, eyebrows knitted together, brown eyes floating in puddles of tears, I lifted her to my shoulder and rubbed her back. She was not a quiet child. This was terribly unusual - she was normally prone to outrageously dramatic outbursts that had the potential to raise the dead.
As I rubbed her back and asked what was wrong, she stuttered, "When will somebody come to fix them, Mommy? They can't just stay RUINED forever." She sucked short breaths in and grabbed handfuls of my hair as her face buried itself into that part of my neck that was made for her. My husband laughed out loud even as a lump grew in my throat. I felt so badly for her disappointment, but couldn't figure out how to explain. Throughout the remainder of our weeks in Europe, she never failed to cry at the sight of devastated buildings and beg me to call someone to restore them. I didn't have the heart to tell her I was trying to give up "fixing" things that didn't belong to me. Just enjoying the view was hard enough.