I believe in appreciating the things your parents made you do as a kid. Some are things you’d want to do anyway, and others fall into the “you’ll be happy you saw this someday” column. When I was a kid, most of the places we went fell into the latter category. The only reason I’m able to say these things now is because I’ve had a good deal of time to reflect, and I also have been able to realise that many people have not enjoyed a comparable amount of travel. To me, that point is secondary. I find as much fascination in my memories of Giza as my memories of a relatively mundane visit to the Natural History Museum in London.
The memory that perhaps crystallises this idea the best is from a family holiday in Egypt. Being a young boy, I was ecstatic to find out we were going to see loads of gruesome mummies and cool gold statues. I even remember that there was some kind of new King Tutankhamen exhibit, “new” meaning that the English and Egyptian governments had sorted out their differences, and that the exhibit was finally being returned to Cairo. On one morning, my family and I piled into a car. I watched our driver ply his way through the rather disorganised traffic out of the city and the outlying slums. I asked where we were going, and my dad told me that we were headed up to a place called St. Catherine’s Monastery. I had already made up my mind to not be interested in some snore-inducing old monk hangout, despite my parents’ insistence I’d be happy to have seen this one day. After a three hour drive, I was largely unimpressed by what I saw. It looked like a half-done castle painted in sand colours. Inside, there was the same tour I felt like I’d been on a thousand times before, filled with Biblical references to which I could assign no significance. Finally we arrived at a giant bush. Apparently it was the Burning Bush. At the time I only knew of it as a secondary plot point in an Indiana Jones film. Now I know what it is, and how much it means to so many people. I only wish I could jump into the photo of me in front of the bush and explain to the disinterested kid with spectacles why he ought to look more enthused.
At the time I was really quite bored. Looking back, I understand why my parents thought it was worth a six hour roundtrip to come see this. But it’s not the location, or the great significance it has. A trip to the local museum about a lake can have just as profound an effect on a child. When your parents tell you that you’re going to see something interesting and that you’ll appreciate it someday, listen up. Parents have a habit of being right about those things.