It was the summer of 1984, not long after my eleventh birthday, and my first trip across the Atlantic would shape my world in ways I never thought possible. We’d been riding in a motorcoach, walked miles all over Rome, and at the base of the Spanish Steps, I stopped. I was exhausted and needed to rest, but at the same time, I was angry. My body was weaker than my will.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
I made a promise to myself that someday I would come back and climb them, all the way to the top. If you’ve never been to the Spanish Steps in Rome or only seen them in pictures, it can be difficult to understand why I was both so angry and adamant at what should not have been such a daunting task. So, please bear with me as I share a bit of history – mine and that of the steps.
The Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
The steps were built in the eighteenth century by a little-known Italian architect and funded by a French diplomat, but they get their name from the Piazza di Spagna at the foot of them which named after the Spanish Embassy. The steps connect the Trinita dei Monti church with the Holy See, the seat of the Catholic Church in Rome, in the square below. There is an energy in these steps from the feet of history which have trod them, the meeting place scene and set for movie scenes, movie stars, and the average joe, or jane. But, for me, they were out of reach. Why?
There are 135 steep steps. They are the widest stairway in all of Europe, and so while everyone else climbed them to the top for the view, for pictures, and for the experience. I stopped and sat down to catch my breath. I didn’t get to go with the rest of our tour group. I was the youngest on the tour by five years, the next oldest and only other kid was sixteen, and I had the least energy. My heart rate was too slow and I’d done too much walking.
A Solemn Vow
So, as I sat at the base of the Spanish Steps taking deep breaths to get my heart back to beating more evenly, and as I watched the others climb – those I knew and those I didn’t, tears began to form, and teased the corners of my eyes. In a flash of anger, I shook my head, I wouldn’t let these stone steps beat me. I would go back to the states, speed through recovery after the second surgery, and made a promise to myself that someday, I would come back to these steps, and not just walk to the top, but run.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion to this story….