Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You're never too big to cuddle

On Saturday we visited the Nature & Science Museum to see the traveling Pompeii exhibit. I have always been fascinated by the story of Vesuvius and the city that disappeared and was a bit envious of my parents who went to the actual place earlier this year.

We really enjoyed the exhibit with its jewelry and gladiator helmets and coins and frescoes. I raised my eyebrows at Joel a number of times - who knew they had so much erotic pottery back in the day? Luckily, most of it was obscure enough that the kids didn't understand terms like "two men and a woman on a boat down the Nile in this erotic fresco" (Joel: I don't think that woman enjoyed the boat ride) or "oil lamp depicting a comical walking phallus" (oh reeeeeeally? *peers through glass* yep, that's exactly what it is). Mostly Joel and I just said, "People wrestling," and it looks pretty much the same.

At the end, they had some of the plaster casts my parents had told me about. When they were first excavating Pompeii, they were confused by pockets of air. Then someone had the idea to pour plaster into these holes. After the plaster hardened, they revealed these pockets of air were actually where bodies had been, now leaving amazingly lifelike plaster casts of the people who had died there.

It was breathtaking. The mood was quite solemn with the dimly lit room punctuated by spotlights on the figures. I was immediately struck by a pair of people. One was a woman, lying on her back. Across her head was her husband, in the act of shielding her from the suffocating ash. It broke my heart. Here these people probably had no idea of how bad it was going to get (or maybe they did), and their instincts were then what they are today: to protect your loved ones.

There was one of a man, sitting on a stool, holding his cloak up to his face (pictured at the top). There was one of a dog, left chained to a gate, who climbed higher and higher as the ash built up until he couldn't any more and was suffocated.

As I walked through the exhibit, Gemma was largely unfazed by most of it (naturally). Then we got to a pair of girls, who were huddled together. "Oh!" Gemma said, almost reverently. "Look! They're cuddling!" Then she asked what happened to them. I told her they had died like that. "We like to cuddle," was her response.

Today, as I was driving Gemma to her swim lessons, she suddenly piped up, "Mom? Remember at the museum when we saw the girls cuddling before they died?" Um...yes. "Will you cuddle me and I will cuddle you before we die?"

Who knew that the 7 minutes it takes to drive from our house to swim lessons would bring me to the verge of tears?!

"Of course, Gemma."

As we walked to the entry of the rec center, she piped up again, "I can cuddle you even when I'm a big girl."

A young woman, maybe in her 20s, was passing us at this moment and said, "I'm big and I still cuddle my mom!"

Gemma, triumphant, said, "And we will cuddle all the time, even if we're big or we're going to die."

Thank you, Pompeii, for teaching us that lesson.


Kimberly said...

That made me cry, too, Sarah. What a sweet little girl you have.