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The Things I Knew in Lima Peru

Could it be there is a portal into the Past?

And would it be recognizable as the Past if one unexpectedly found themselves there? Or is it like the philosophical conundrum that queries whether we’d recognize Jesus if he were here today?

If the Past were here in the Present, might it be only visible when you didn’t look directly at it? Or perhaps it would need to be perceived as a reflection in the solid objects in the room, like the furniture, the wallpaper, the tile. Or could it be that these objects combine to vibrate in unison to create a harmonious force field which draws your memories into the room with you and there to live again fully?

None of this is terribly clear, and it might be a puzzle that will forever pester the back of my mind, yet I believe I may have experienced this portal in Lima Peru.

I entered El Gran Bolivar Hotel and it was as if I re-entered my childhood. Specifically all the time I ever spent with my grandparents.

The lobby was vast and splendid in a well polished, faded glory; all wood and marble and chandeliers entirely unchanged or untouched for a century. As I passed the threshold into it, suddenly I was with my grandmother heading to downtown Montreal on an exciting excursion to have lunch at Eatons then to watch the Christmas parade. Or perhaps we were just shoe shopping. We took the bus and were dressed for the occasion. She held my hand (which I loved the feel of there, in the lobby of El Gran Bolivar). Her suit gave off that familiar and earthly scent I had always loved. I could look up at her at any point and be graced with her perpetually amused expression. It was always as if she was just remembering a damn good joke.

I vividly remembered when men wore hats and ladies their gloves.

The porter carried my knapsack covered with brightly coloured Japanese girl pirates up to the room for me as I had no real luggage. I followed, obediently, still enthralled by the sensation that I was a six year old (a feeling most definitely reinforced by the impossibly high ceilings).

Once in the room, spacious by any measure, I could find nothing I wouldn’t have found while visiting my grandparents in Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada. The home where my mother and uncle grew up. The only home I ever knew of grandma and grandpa. Where nothing ever changed. Time was captured and made to sit quietly in the corner and not bother anybody.

I found I was sitting in a living room kept cool with heavy drapes, the sunlight peeking in, grateful for the protection of the blistering midday heat.

I heard my grandpa come home, at the same time he did everyday, after a round of golf played on the way home from work. Or maybe that was my mother’s memory, one she once told me when we were in this house in Mount Royal, and which I took possession of it like it was my own. Maybe it was such a vivid memory for me because I couldn’t imagine seeing my father every day at 5pm. And it was like the life of a fairy princess, I was in awe.

The television was black and white and set in a fine cabinetry cabinet and the only channel was CBC. Pierre Berton was on being terribly clever which I knew from everyone’s reactions to him, and which I took to be the gospel truth. I’ve since grown up to and happily learned that it was indeed a fact.

I wonder if portals into the past are as slippery and hard to pin down as those time-space portals they write into sci-fi shows these days? Could it be mine in Lima Peru wouldn’t work for you? If so then I guess you will never get to be with my dear grandparents. I might never get to hang with yours. Some things are too much to expect, even while enjoying a magical zone of the living past.

As usual, this portal to the Past reminded me how grateful I am whenever I find myself in the presence of magic.

Originally published February 19, 2013

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