It was my first trip to Europe. I was badly in need of some kind of reward. I’d just left my marriage and now was alone, needing to find a way to support myself. I’d spent twenty-five years raising four children who had surprisingly turned out to be wonderful adults. I’d managed a household, cooked and cleaned, successfully moved this family all over the country, creating community everywhere we went. I had no complaints, for I had loved that job, but there was no place for those skills on a résumé. So I was poor and scared.
I had received a settlement from an insurance claim, enough to make a trip to Europe if I went courier. I knew about that system as I had friends who used it when they went to auditions in New York. It paid for my crossing and my only cost was my return ticket home.
I stopped first in London, as that was where the computer parts I was couriering were expected. I stayed at The Dolphin for four days. This was a combination B&B, hotel, and apartments. There was even a green grocer’s. I had a large room with the bath and toilet down the hall. Had a marvelous time and even bumped into a neighbor at the Seamen’s Chapel. Small world.
I then visited my father’s cousin Beata in Lillehammer, Norway and let her feed my five times a day. After four days and ten pounds, I flew to Germany to visit Helga. This was an ex-Lutheran nun who had come to the States to get her Masters Degree in social work. We had met and I invited her to our home for holidays and Sundays. We played duets, she on the recorder, me on the piano. In Munich she filled her tiny apartment with her friends to entertain me. Then we went to Ulm for the weekend and climbed the church tower, the highest in the country (I was younger then). Then visited her brother, the Head Master at a school in a monastery that was built in the 1400s. We stayed in a little town in an inn. There had been a wedding and we were invited as guests. The following morning, I was awakened early by loud “moos” as cows exited the barn beneath us.
And then I went to Paris. City of love. I stayed in a tiny hotel in the Left Bank, in a room in the attic. The ceiling sloped to the floor. My first evening, I asked the owner where I should eat. He was delighted and told me of his favorite restaurant only a few blocks away. I went. The maitré de hotel was polite and seated me near the door. I told him to serve me whatever was the best, and he did.
The following evening after a marvelous day of sight seeing, I went again to the restaurant. This time I was seated closer to the fireplace. Same maitré de, same routine.
I did it again on the third evening and was seated beside the fireplace.
On the fourth evening, I decided to go one last time. On my way, I passed a flower stall. Primroses, in tiny pots, were blooming. I bought eight pretty plants, one for each table. I arrived at the restaurant, my arms filled with blossoms. The maitré de opened the door and gasped. “Oh, but Madam, I am married!”
City of love, indeed!
***NOTICE***We’ve taken my book Suicide: Living With the Question out of production. I apologize to those of you who have already purchased the unedited copy (mia culpa). As soon as the corrected version is ready, I’ll let you know. As Winnie-the-Pooh says, “This writing business. Pencils and whatnot. Overrated if you ask me.”