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Beverly Beckham

Dream trip leads to home

An Egyptian policeman patrols on camel close to the Giza pyramids in Cairo. An Egyptian policeman patrols on camel close to the Giza pyramids in Cairo. (Nasser Nasser/Associated Press/File)
By Beverly Beckham
Globe Columnist / November 9, 2008
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Watching the clock. Wishing the time away. Ten more hours. Eight more hours. Fiddling with the headset, the foot rest. Reading. Not reading. Stretching. Walking. Snoozing. Eating. Seven more hours. Six. Five. Four. Three. . . .

Flying home. Aching to be home.

"It will be great to get away," I had said to my children and my friends two weeks ago. And I meant it. My husband and I were headed to Egypt, a dream trip. "See the pyramids along the Nile."

And we did. We saw pyramids, mosques, minarets, the Sphinx, and the teeming streets of Cairo. Centuries of history. The birthplace of civilization. A different world. A different culture.

And it was all good.

But home? Home is better.

A long time ago, my Aunt Lorraine took a cross-country trip with her husband, Frank. They were gone for a month and when they returned, I raced to her house to hear about all she had seen and done. And I asked her, "What was your favorite place?" expecting her to say the Rocky Mountains, Aspen, the Grand Canyon, Monterey, or San Francisco.

But instead she said "here," and I thought here? Stoughton, Massachusetts? You have driven from Boston to San Francisco and Stoughton is your favorite place?

I didn't understand then that what she meant was home was her favorite place. Her home. Her family. Her friends. The life and the world she knew.

I was glad to be getting away from the life and world I knew. An intermission. An adventure. I'd be back in just 10 days.

I didn't miss home at first. I was in the moment, memorizing a city I had only read about, seen only in movies. Cairo is the most densely populated place on Earth, hot and hazy, swarming with people and cars and buses and horse-drawn carts and donkeys, all sharing a maze of streets. Traffic was gridlocked, pedestrians everywhere, men and women darting between buggies and trucks, all the trucks and cars scraped and dented. Dust, smoke, trash, cigarette butts, merchants hawking their wares, vendors selling bread, horns blaring, music playing day and night. And underneath all this, in the background, is the intermittent chant of prayer.

Mothers carry their children in Egypt; there are no baby carriages. Infants are swaddled and toddlers are perched on their mothers' shoulders, looking out at the world, sitting upright the way they would on a horse. They are beautiful, smiling children, with brown hair and black hair, brown eyes and green eyes.

Those smiles made me miss my children and their children. They got me dreaming of home, and counting the days.

We visited the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Karnak, learned about King Tut and Ramses II, touched the Great Sphinx, and stood in the shadow of the pyramids. We saw mummies, museums, mosques, and camels. We even sailed on the Nile.

It was a dream trip, both back in time and out of time, the past alongside the present. Antiquities next to apartment buildings, donkeys trudging beside buses. Obelisks and tombs and belly dancing, all Egyptian treasures.

At the airport, while waiting in line to check in for our return flight, I watched dozens of mothers with their babies and children. I smiled and the children smiled and their mothers smiled, too. And with every smile I missed home a little more.

"Welcome back home," a customs agent said when we landed in New York.

Welcome back to my children and their children. To family and friends. To my country, my life, and the world that I know.

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at bevbeckham@aol.com.

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