Thursday, July 09, 2009
It was 40 years ago today
Do you remember what you were doing in July of 1969?
Quite a lot happened that month. In Britain, Charles became Prince of Wales; I recall watching the ceremony on (black-and-white) TV, and wishing I could meet him. Probably just as well I didn't in the event.
The United States put a man on the moon. I watched those grainy images as well.
I was fifteen, about to turn sixteen, and I had my first boyfriend, a guy named Bob. He later became a doctor, and turned out to be a wife-abuser or something equally nasty. Bob, if you ever read this, thanks for dumping me! I survived the heartbreak somehow!
July of 1969 was also the month I went to Europe with my parents -- a whirlwind, two-week jaunt to London, Paris, and Rome.
None of us had ever been on an airplane before. Mom made us all dress up -- it seemed like quite an event. Nowadays I fly in jeans and a tee-shirt (this happens to be what I live in, anyway ...), but I remember I had a two-piece outfit, a flowered skirt and matching vest, with a white shirt underneath. And new sandals. I was absurdly overdressed for a long night flight into Heathrow.
In London, it rained (what a surprise!). During a shopping trip, my parents bought a mantel clock in Girard Street, and had it shipped back home. How eagerly we waited for our "English clock" to arrive! It's one of the things I treasure most, and it's ticking away downstairs on my own mantel as I write. We saw Piccadilly Circus, and (of course, it was the 1960s) Carnaby Street. I ate a lot of pizza -- there didn't seem to be much else I liked.
In Paris, the weather was better. We stayed in an upscale hotel where the waiters placed your napkin on your lap and peeled the orange for you. This creeped me out at the time, and probably still would. I practiced my French incessantly, for better or worse, and we walked on the Champs Elysees, where my mother bought a green-and-white dress in a little boutique.
Rome was my favorite! The taxi drivers cheated us, but they were so charming you didn't mind. The catacombs were musty, dark, and awesome; we spent most of a day there. We saw umpteen churches -- Santa Maria Maggiore stands out in my memory, as does St. Peter's, of course. But my favorite excursion was to the Villa d'Este, which had Renaissance gardens, grottoes, fountains, and was gorgeous and wild in the evening as the sun set.
It was the trip of a lifetime, Mom kept saying. She had never been to Europe before; Dad had not been back since the war. They always intended to go back yet again, but life got in the way, I guess. In the end, death got in the way, and they never went back. I have all the pictures I took with my little Sears camera, but I can't seem to locate them.
After Mom died, I was cleaning out her clothes closet, and there was the Parisian dress. It's funny what outlasts us: a few pieces of green cloth, a clock, some misplaced pictures.
And a lot of good memories.