Climbing Iron with my Son

Eiffel tower stairsWe left the market and headed toward the tower, which was easy to find considering it loomed over the top of every building.

I couldn’t get over how enormous the thing was. Standing next to a tall building is one thing, but standing under something just as big took my breath away. Everybody wanted to go straight to the top. Marit and Donna chose the elevator. The kids were hell bent on climbing up there. They ran toward the staircase at the Pilier Nord.

 “C’mon Dad” Chris beckoned.

I found a sudden surge of energy and self-confidence (a cocktail for a mid-life heart attack for certain). I bid farewell to the ladies and followed after them, thinking I was still seventeen.

They’d saved me a place in the ticket line. I approached the woman in the glass booth. “Six billet,” I requested, “Sank enfant, un adulte.”  How impressed I’d become with myself speaking all this French.

“Five tickets for the children?” she reiterated.

“Yes, oui” I replied (using two languages for no logical reason).

She peered at me over the top of her glasses. “You, sir are the adult, I presume?”

“Yes”

“Are you sure you want to climb the stairs?” She must have noticed the bags of olives suffed into my jacket and assumed they were body fat.

“I’m positive madam” It was my best poker face. I knew darn well it would be the same as climbing a 20-story building. I also knew I was overweight according to World Heath Organization standards, even without the olives.

She muttered something in French and relinquished my ticket. I walked briskly to keep up with the kids as they rushed toward the northern leg. They disappeared up the network of stairs but I didn’t care. My slower pace allowed me to take in this unique perspective of the city. That’s my story at least. I stopped to catch my breath and gazed at the labyrinth of brown iron above me. The next level seemed so far away.

After a few more flights, I noticed a familiar red hooded sweatshirt. Chris stood on the landing above me.

“Are you tired, Dad?”

“Not at all (breath), I’ll be up there in a minute.”

He was running his hand across a beam when I got there. “Dad, what does this remind you of?”.

“Mount (deep breath) Everest?”

“No” he slapped the side of a beam. “This!”

“Uh (breath), the Golden Gate Bridge?”

“Yes!”

The bridge was fresh in his mind because we’d walked across it the summer before. They got to experience it to the fullest and savor details that motorists can’t, like stopping under each tower to gawk at their size or looking over the railing at passing boats and ships below.

“Dad, which one’s older – this or the Golden   GateBridge?”

“This.”

“By how much?”

“Ah. Let’s see. The bridge was finished in the late 1930′s and this tower was finished around 1890. “Forty five years?”

He smiled. “Your age, Dad?”

“Don’t remind me.”

Chris didn’t mind climbing the remaining steps at my pace. We admired more of the architecture of this giant erector-set project when a fountain of sparks caught our attention. It was coming from a man in a hard hat straddling a beam. Golden sparks exploded from his welding torch creating a miniature firework show against the silver clouds beyond.

We found a telescope and dropped coins into the heavy brass housing. Chris took the first turn peeking into the eyepiece. He was so concerned about making sure I got my turn before the time ran out. Ever the good kid, the “Angel Boy” as Donna called him. While the youngest, he was never the “baby” of the family. He could always keep up with the other kids and they didn’t seem to mind having him around. While the older two commanded our attention, Chris was happy to go with the flow. His lack of a squeaky wheel may have got him lost in the background at times.

Eventually we reached our goal of the first level. The view from this enormous observation deck was truly amazing – I’ve never looked down through a giant open space like this. The perspective was dizzying.

“Dad, could you die if you jumped from here?”

“Probably.” I grasped his shoulders, “So don’t jump.”

“I won’t.” he assured, shaking his head.

“Up there Chris.” I said, pointing to the top of the tower above us. “I guess that’s where they jump from.”

“Really?”

Yeah, but most never hit the ground.”

He looked upward. “Why not?”

“I guess they miscalculate the size of the base and hit the framework. The Paris police department has a special team that picks up the body parts.”

“Cool.”

It dawned on me that Chris had been asking a lot more questions than the other two. Could it be, he’d get the most out of this adventure?

We talked about all the things dads and sons should talk about when visiting the EiffelTower – like the momentum a penny would gain if dropped from the top – could it equal the velocity of a bullet fired from a gun? We found the spot where the little dog jumped over the railing in European Vacation – we laughed thinking about the tiny splash the dog made in that pool so far below.

We looked up and squinted. We could barely see people standing at the very top of the tower. Donna was up there someplace with Marit. Funny, I always thought I’d spend my first visit to the EiffelTower with her. Instead, I’d spend it with Chris – my little boy who not that long ago was running around the house with jelly stains on his shirt. How quickly he was growing up.

NEXT: Skipping Louis the Fourteenth

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