My parents returned yesterday from their extended European tour. Ever energetic, they were up early this morning to meet my sister and her in-laws for breakfast, then moved on to shop the Walnut Creek Farmer’s Market. My mom called and asked if they might drop by and pick up the things they had sent home with us; an hour later they were at our door bearing strawberries and smiles.
We shared our photos with them, speaking over one another eagerly as we each remembered events from a unique perspective, and laughing frequently over these observations. And then they shared the specifics of their three additional weeks travelling throughout central Europe.
Two of those weeks were with another couple, old friends who flew in to Geneva two days after my husband and I departed for home. My mother had sent a couple of emails during this portion of their travels, and from the strained and excessively tactful tone of those missives I had perceived that not all was well. So this afternoon I asked how their friends enjoyed the trip, and after my parents exchanged knowing looks, they began with, They seemed to have a good time, but it was not quite as easy as travelling with family. Well, travelling with family wasn’t exactly a cake-walk either from my perspective. I pressed for details.
My parents’ friends are nice people, and I thought I knew them well. But like all people, the husband has a dark side of which even my parents were not aware, though knowing him for 30 years: he is very racist. My father was both surprised and embarrassed to learn this in Switzerland when he and his friend rode the train to Jungfraujoch and the friend declined to enter the ice room, publicly and loudly saying, There are an awful lot of Japs in there.
On the ride back down to Kleine Schiedegg, my dad saw that several passengers were dressed in middle-Eastern garb; apparently so did as friend as he proclaimed (again, publicly and loudly), Where did all these Islamic fundamentalists come from?
I have a feeling my parents will not be travelling with this couple again.