When I was a kid, my father and I would drive from New Mexico to Los Angeles to visit my grandmother. We’d leave before dawn, and drive straight through. When we got out of the car in L.A., the night air was warm and humid and smelled of orange blossoms.
My grandmother’s house always seemed exceedingly elegant–tall windows, plush carpeting, long drapes. In the dining room was a drawing in pastels of a medina gate, busy with be-fezzed pedestrians. I knew it was a place in Morocco, though my grandmother had never been there. My father told me she drew it from a postcard, in a class.
Decades later, my father and mother went to Morocco to live for a stretch. Due to the drawing? I don’t know.
When I was just in Fez in June, I passed by Bab Bou Jeloud, the main gate into the medina, quite a few times–the ATM there was the handiest one that accepted my card.
It was only on the fourth or fifth pass that I realized: That’s the gate! (And if you’re thinking that was a slow reaction, note that I’d even been to Fez before.)
The gate was renovated sometime in the last decade, which I assume is why the decoration around it is a bit different. Or Grandma Carol took some artistic license. Who can say? But the two minarets are still the same, and though the fezzes are gone and synthetic fabrics are in, not too much else has changed.
Except for the fact that the drawing hangs on my wall now. Alas, we have no orange blossoms here in Astoria, but occasionally when I travel, I still step into a hot, humid night and think, “L.A.–we’re here.”