I blinked my eyes purposefully, as if they were the shutter on a camera, and I was taking a mental picture of this moment I didn’t want to forget. The steam rose from the tea as I took a sip. The night had just cooled off enough for the hot mug to feel comforting in my hands. I sensed magic in the air, but the moment was for me alone. People, unaware, bustled by occupied with their packages, or babies, or companions.
I watched them in amazement and wonder. The sun was just sinking over the square, I uncertain as to whether the goosebumps were from cold or awe. My ancestors walked this very ground I was standing on. Our quaint hotel, Hotel Amadeus was standing 400 years ago – when they lived here.
I closed my eyes, willing myself to not forget a detail – wishing this moment could last forever. I wanted to remember every smell, every sound. Sensing the solemness of the moment, my husband gently squeezed my hand. A dream come true. Haarlem was everything I dreamed it would be – and more.
We left the cafe hand in hand and without saying a word began to walk the cobblestone roads. The occasional bike would meander past us. My heart swelled with love, for I knew the busyness of the day had left him drained. Yet he said nothing as we walked.
My mind wandered back to the day before as we were sitting around the table at his parents’ house in Germany. Unlike our non-vacation habit, we made a sudden decision to rent a car and drive to the Netherlands. He knew I’d always wanted to see it and figured there is no time like the present.
I was impressed with his ability to navigate the traffic on the Autobahn – where speed limits are suggestions. Arriving early in the afternoon we saw Anne Frank’s and Corrie Ten Boom’s houses. Then we enjoyed a canal ride through the city. After a fully packed day, the evening was late. Yet, the sun was still high in the sky when we spotted the cafe.
This exact moment – that is where I would want to be if I could zoom through space at the speed of light. No matter how many times I travel back to the Netherlands – or anywhere for that matter – I’ve discovered it’s difficult, if not impossible to recreate moments. Sure, you can return to a favorite travel spot. You can even stay in the same hotel, eat at the same restaurants and see the same sights. But, you won’t be the same person you were when you originally visited the spot. Time will have aged you and experiences shaped you. And that changes everything.
In some ways it can be a good thing, you will have the opportunity to create new moments. But, I’ve found I have to go with the attitude of making new memories, not trying to relive past ones.
With that in mind, I would choose to relive that moment. Just for an hour, to be 25 again, newly married and without a care in the world, sitting in Grote Markt at a tiny cafe sipping tea.