We were in Brussels just a few weeks ago. We stayed for three days and that was enough time to settle in our minds that out of all the places we’ve gone so far, Brussels was the one we couldn’t wait to return to. On our first day there we even talked about moving, we walked through neighborhoods first thing in the morning wonderfully surprised by how small the city felt. And now this. Now the unthinkable has happened. And Tyler and I both sat silent for a long time. Then we talked and we decided that still want to return. We’d still move there, we’d still visit as much as possible and that’s because a place isn’t what’s happened to it. A place is made up by the people who call it home.
In the aftermath, that’s what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about the many men who stopped us on the sidewalks when we looked lost. The ones who didn’t wait for us to ask for help, they just offered. There was one man who, on his way to work, took fifteen minutes to talk to us, give us recommendations, and wish us a great stay. “People think we’re at war here, and they don’t want to come anymore,” he said in frustration before he went on his way. “It’s not true. Thank you for visiting.”
I’m thinking also of the waitress at Monks who served our drinks and spaghetti. She chatted with me, answering my many questions about the city and even indulging my boys when they asked her to say a few phrases in Dutch. Her dimpled cheeks and wild, curly hair made her look no older than fifteen, but you could tell she’d worked at the restaurant a while. She knew the regulars, called them by name, and chatted with the bar tenders and cooks, all while smiling a broad, contagious smile.
And of course I’m thinking about Sarah (aka the fifth Messenger), the little girl who joined us for dinner on our last night in Brussels. I keep thinking about her smile, her messy, mousy hair, and the way my lap felt suddenly warm at the end of our meal. Yes, it was because of her we had to call it a night and go back to our hotel room so I could wash my jeans. Even still, Sara was awesome. She instantly took to my boys, and we instantly took to her, and I wonder today if she’s alright.
I wonder about all the people we met. I hope they weren’t close when the unthinkable happened. I hope they still know that people are kind, that they will share a meal, talk, and care. That there are people that worry about them. Mostly I hope that when we come back, and we will come back, that Brussels will still be as delightful as it was weeks ago.
Click here to view some pictures from our visit to Brussels.