It was early, and the beach was empty. Waves of the Mediterranean lapped quietly at the shore, as if trying not to break the stillness.
I breathed in the ocean air once more, tasting it. With a shudder that wasn’t entirely from the morning chill, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around me. I looked around, wondering how far we were from the hotel; all of the cobbled streets looked the same to me. I could see the beach at the end of the street, though, so the hotel must be back and to the left…
“Regarde!” Mama said, pointing with her free hand, the other holding on to my brother’s tiny fingers.
A colossal carousel sat, lonely, at the end of the street, before the pavement surrendered entirely to the white sand. It was a two-tiered one, with rocking horses on the bottom tier and traditional up-and-down horses on the top. The canopy was bright red, the little lights along the top blinked invitingly, and plastic horses of every pose, every color sat, waiting for us to happen upon them.
Cries in English of, “Mama, Mama, please? Can we? Can we ride on the carousel? Please?” immediately arose from my brother and me.
“Do you really want to?” she asked.
“Yes! Yes! Of course we do!”
Mama smiled and nodded. Delighted, my brother and I raced to the carousel. I won.
“Deux, sil’ vous plait,” Mama said to the operator. He nodded, let my brother and I on, and closed the gate.
“Which one are you going on?” my brother asked me.
Curious, I chose a large, white horse with turquoise swirls on the bottom level. I had never seen a carousel horse that didn’t go up and down before.
“This one,” I said plainly.
“Oh,” he said. “I’m going to go to one of the ones on the top.” With that, he ran up the stairs and chose a plastic steed.
The cheery music started up, and the round contraption jerked into motion. The rocking movement of the lower-tier horses surprised me, causing me to grip tightly to the plastic mane. But it didn’t take long for me to let go, close my eyes, and grin a delighted grin as the horse went back-forth, back-forth in time with the waves on the shore.
This is one of my favorite memories from when I was just about to turn nine years old, in 2003. I apologize if I didn’t get all of the French right — it’s been a long time since I’ve spoken it.