©2022 Robert Sickles
My parents and I made three wonderful summer trips to Europe when I was between 13 and 15 years old. I soaked up every sight, smell and sound. Each year we got a little more adventurous and independent, returning to favorite places for a longer look as well as trying new countries.
For our first trip to Europe, we went with an all-inclusive big bus 3-week tour, very much like the funny movie “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium”. Some of my biggest adventures happened here, at age 13!
I have several stories from these travels to Europe, here is one of my favorites!
Adam and Eve Break the Ice
Things were a little stilted on the big bus tour of Europe. It was about a quarter full of a group of close-knit retired New Zealanders. There seemed to be a segregation line on the bus, with the New Zealanders taking the first 4 rows and the rest of us travelers in the back. That separation was also evident on our walking tours, at dining room seating and so forth, which all seemed so awkward and unfortunate to me. At 13, I was apparently seeing myself as a sort of ambassador of sorts. If the U.S. State Department put out a call to hire clowns and comedians I would have applied.
In one German city, the tour bus stopped for souvenirs and refreshments in an area noted for fine porcelain. Herded to the gift shop to the right of the bus, the older passengers happily went to shop for Hummel figurines and fancy cups & saucers. I, instead, veered to the left and wandered a few streets into the town center. In a novelty shop window, I spotted comical little clay caricatures of anatomically exaggerated Adam and Eve. Adam was clearly aroused beside buxom Eve—I had to buy them!
The custom was to return to the bus and hold up your shopping treasure for all to see and enjoy. Agnes held up her tea cup to oohs and aahs, Edna received fingertip applause for her little porcelain bell. Mom proudly showed off a pair of way-too-cute rosy-cheeked Hummel figurines. "Oh, this is perfect!" I thought, "Now it's my turn!" I hung back until everyone was seated before boarding the bus. I smiled and moved slowly toward my seat at the back, holding high Adam and Eve, turning left and right so everyone got frontal and dorsal views. There were some soft gasps at first. I thought I heard my mother’s voice “Oh, Bobby!” Then a crescendo of tittering followed me down the aisle. By the time I reached my seat, Mom and Dad had their faces in their hands, but the whole rest of the bus was rocking with laughter—it kept bubbling up over and over as the bus motored on to our next destination! At dinner that night, my parents and I were invited to sit at the New Zealanders’ table, where my figurines became a wonderful centerpiece.
I think for the rest of the trip everyone was waiting to see what I’d do next. If something happened along the way that was humorous, people turned to me to see what kind of reaction I was having. Though I tried not to disappoint, nothing seemed to hit the mark as well as Adam and Eve! And just as I had intended, everyone became acquainted and relaxed, enjoying the tour together and sharing their experiences every night at dinner.
That is, except for one. The guide, Manuel, who could have been grateful for my ice-breaking help, had lost some control of the tour group and was obviously not pleased with me.
[Tour guide rolls his eyes at me as he announces into his microphone: "Now folks, attention please… excuse me… if you’d look to your left, quickly as we come around this turn… hey people, listen please… ah well, you just missed the most spectacular view of the Alps! That was Matterhorn if anyone caught it…"]
Now, my wife Linda tells me about her teaching experiences with 3rd graders, how tough it is to keep her students’ attention on a lesson when a certain child in the back row—we’ll call him “Bobby”—brings a toy or magazine to class, creating a giant distraction in the classroom.
Well, to this day, I am still Bobby, and I still get credit and blame for a lot.
Sadly, my little Adam and Eve figures didn't survive baggage handling on the flight home from Europe! (or so my mother claimed...)
I found this photo on the internet. These are not exactly the same and not nearly as well-made, but they give you a rough idea.