How the Good Times Rolled!

Steamboatin (2)
Rollin’ on the Mississippi Queen

This would have been my love of a lifetime’s 89th birthday: July 16. Didn’t happen, sorry to say. But his being seven years deceased in no way dims the good memories—vibrant as ever and worth the telling. He made his musician/teaching mark professionally, but for me, all the best days of our fifty-eight married years—and the five years leading up to that momentous occasion—made a personal mark. I can picture Frank up front on the H.S. band’s lead bus headed for Disney World announcing ,“Let the good times roll!” And did they ever! Time after time.

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Bird’s eye viewers

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When we had reached retirement age and opportunity and had saved enough of what we’d earned, travelling became one of our favorite things to do. Besides enjoying the Maritime Provinces twice, a Rocky Mt. Railway cross-Canada plus two Australia/New Zealand treks made indelible photos-in-the-mind. And then we fell under the spell of several escorted Discovery tours with Grand Circle Travel—on River Boats of such names as M.S. Harmony and M.S. Melody. We basked in delight on all of the major European rivers

But in between, we fancied (“cottoned to,” in the vernacular) Steamboatin’. I’m thinking we didn’t miss a navigable river in all of the USA. We loved the onshore excursions, too, anticipating the two black ladies sitting on the side hill whenever we tied up at Natchez. We knew they’d be set up and waiting for passengers who couldn’t pass up buying a bag of their yummy pralines. We always did.

Of our ten Steamboatin’ jaunts –some just prior to Christmas—some from three days to a week—the good times rolled for us aboard The Mississippi Queen.

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Teddy’s not alone; I still wear T-shirts from places we loved

I’m thinking 2008 may have been our last such trip on the paddle wheeler. We took everything in stride including the Captain’s Welcome Reception and his fresh bouquet for our stateroom. We tolerated twin beds. Barely. On the last night aboard, we accepted the resident photographer’s photo-op on our way to first seating dinner.

Both sporting earlier trip’s SteamBoatique purchases —mine a satin scarf and Frank’s, a tie—keepers.

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Dinner Time

After dinner, on impulse, I pulled the bright red carnation from our bouquet and secured it in my hair—just for fun. Proceeding into the Grand Saloon for the always grand and memorable musical show, I got a lot of attention from ladies who claimed they wished they’d thought of it, themselves. Post second show time we relaxed in posh chairs while the in-house band played for dancing. My talented husband was welcomed by the band guys, as always, and invited to sit in when they (and the bassist) took a break. Our table mates were impressed. So was I.

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Then came the moment when I almost regretted all the married years when my spouse was out there playing for other folks to dance the night away. I had never really learned to dance because I never would have said yes to anyone else who might have asked from age 18 on.

“Come on, Skeet, this is the last slow one in their last set,” my trusting mate whispers and offers his signature engaging smile. And his warm loving hand.

“Well, you know I’ll probably step all over your feet. And embarrass you,” I say, letting him lead me onto the dance floor.

“You won’t.”

“Won’t what? Step on your feet?”

“You won’t embarrass me.”

What a sweetheart!

And what a life of good times all rolled together. The phrase “Happy Birthday!” seems to me a meaningless phrase to offer the dear deceased. But I’m still living; the memories are forever here and now. I’ll happily roll with that.

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Last photo of Frank taken two weeks before his unexpected demise in 2009

A Taste of Paris

It wasn’t too difficult to avoid a dish of snails since we knew the word escargot. But duck l’orange did not become a favorite just because we recognized it–and poulet–on the printed menu. Too oily for my taste. Of course the wait staff made no effort to help us with our selection or service from the start so we knew we were on our own. In observing a couple of matrons at a table-for-two, we quickly caught onto the proper Parisian manner of picking apart the hard roll, one dainty piece at a time. Wouldn’t we have disgraced ourselves royally had we broken a roll in half, buttered it, and proceeded to wolf it down American style?

On one of our “free time” jaunts we ended up totally baffled as to how we could get back into our Japanese-run hotel, the Nicco, which seemed to be totally surrounded with temporary construction scaffolding and fence–no entrance in sight. It was deemed advisable that I remain with the Australian couple from our tour group  who had showed up and admitted to being every bit as baffled and frustrated as we were. My dear husband, never hesitant to problem-solve and put others at ease,  volunteered to walk up a block to the news stand he had spotted. Well, he tried and tried (he eventually reported) to get some kind of answer to our predicament. The man just shook his head in “no speak English” mode. Then my husband resorted to asking the same questions in his halting Sicilian speak and voila! He got the information he needed. In English! That incident soon became one of my husband’s favorite anecdotes.

Our time spent in The Louvre had to be a high spot in our second visit to the famed city. DaVinci’s Mona Lisa was in residence at the time, so that was a highlight. But just to show that my artistic tastes are not all that high-brow, I must admit the sidewalk artist’s version in chalk–to me–was downright awesome. Looked to me (and I spent plenty of time ogling the works-in-progress)–to be a fantastic facsimile. Of course for my album I took a photo of that and the Charlie Chaplin beside it in black and white. And my mate who of necessity handled all the monetary obligations from country to country, tossed coins into the box and hat. “Merci!”

 

Wearing Reminders

Why would a grown woman of extreme advanced years be wearing a pumpkin colored sweatshirt embroidered with the word New Zealand over the chest? And a gold-embroidered kiwi beneath that. Simple: If I live to be one hundred, I don’t ever want to forget the two November visits to Australia and New Zealand, home of the strange bird by which the natives proudly call themselves–kiwis.

If you’ve eaten a kiwi fruit you know of its rough coat and egg shape. But you won’t likely ever get close enough to the national bird to know that its feather coat resembles a hair brush– or hair with a double dose of spray. This I learned from an interview with a woman director of a park/sanctuary where researchers allowed visitors absolutely silent viewing in near-dark–the natural habitat for the nocturnal creatures. Peering to observe their search among leaves and logs for their favorite insects (once my eyes adjusted to practically no light), I was in awe of how they even managed to get around on two spindly legs attached to a huge egg-shaped body, all the while searching with a slender tube of a beak the length of a two-foot ruler. Amazing!  I love to wear t-shirts and sweat shirts from the Daintree Rain Forest, Canadian provinces, Australia, and small ships; scarves and blouses from Holland and Hungary. And no matter how old or thin, my travel treasures cover me in memories. They remind me of my deceased best friend/spouse and  places, people, and times. Wondrous travel times evoked by what I often wear.

Lucy with Great Grandma “Wearing Reminders”