GIFT: The Gift of the Century by G. Ackman

Week 8 Word: GIFT
Word Count 448

The Gift of the Century
by G. Ackman

It all started 45 years ago, in Mr. Gray’s fifth grade classroom. Most of my childhood has faded into brief sepia-toned snapshots in my mind, blurred and indistinct, but this moment I remember as if it happened yesterday. Mr. Gray (and boy, did I ever have a crush on him), had us open our books and read a short story by Louis Untermeyer called “The Dog of Pompeii.” This story about a young blind beggar, Tito, whose dog Bimbo guides him safely out of the city during the volcanic eruption but then goes back to get the boy a raisin cake and is caught and preserved forever in ash ignited a fire within me. From that moment on, my dream of seeing Pompeii was as solid as the remains of those caught in the pyroclastic cloud.
Today, I cried. I stood in front of the glass case that displays the dog, its face and twisted limbs a testament to its agonizing last moments. I cried for the dog and I cried because this moment was nearly fifty years in the making. Five days ago, I, along with nine students and my friend Jody, boarded a plane bound for Italy. We were spending ten days touring Italy and Greece. It took eighteen months of payments, three months of packing and re-packing my carryon bookbag, immeasurable checks and rechecks of my packing list, special purchases of clothes, water bottles, and assorted other essentials for the trip, and the anticipation of a lifetime, but here I was.
Walking the fabled streets of Rome, standing in the ancient Colosseum, navigating the poignant Catacombs, climbing the hills of the temple at Delphi, strolling through the world’s first library in Athens, sauntering the beautiful streets of Sorrento and Capri, and of course, traversing the city of Pompeii will always be with me. A few hours after paying homage to the dog of Pompeii, I stood in the jewelry store and purchased the most extravagant piece of jewelry I have ever or will ever purchase. The cameo choker, hand crafted by a master artisan of Pompeiian shells and depicting a dog is proof to my later self that I was indeed here. It is a treasured momento.
So much went into this trip. I should thank Mr. Gray and Jody because without them, this would not have happened. But there is so much more. My husband who supported the idea, my mother who sent me a check to buy myself something memorable, and my own self who saw this opportunity and clasped it close to my heart. It was almost half a century but the greatest gift of all is one we give ourselves – a dream created and a dream fulfilled.

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