The needle pointed to 100 as Dad sped along the German autobahn. (This photo of the autobahn was not taken in 1967, but I wanted to add a picture, and because Dad had flown over Germany 23 years earlier, it spoke to me.) Mom asked the impossible of us kids; she said, “Be quiet so your father can concentrate.” I think we obeyed, because I only remember a low buzzing sound. The landscape flashed like an automatic camera and I had to shut my eyes. But when I did, I imagined we crashed and our nice American family was spread all over the autobahn.
I opened my eyes as Dad pulled into a big circular driveway in front of a castle. It was our hotel. My tongue unfurled from my mouth like a flag. Swans were swimming in a pond tucked into a vast, green lawn, and I thought I’d wandered into a storybook where David and I were the main characters.
As usual we ran amok, charging down the hallways exploring every nook and cranny, and pretending to fence with the gauntlet of life-sized armored knights, but we jerked to a halt when we saw Dalene. She would holler at us for running because she was twelve. She was in the lobby waiting for the desk clerk who was attempting to assist a man – I think he was English – asking for cigarettes.
“Do you know where I can buy cigarettes?” he asked the clerk.
The clerk rattled something in German, the problem unresolved. The man turned to Dalene and said, “Do you speak English?”
“Yes!” said Dalene with glee.
“Could you please ask the clerk if he sells cigarettes and if not, where I could buy some?”
Dalene turned to the clerk and said, “Do you sell cigarettes here?”
She probably looked German to the man. I wonder if he ever found any cigarettes.
We took a car ferry to Denmark, and in Copenhagen we went to Tivoli Gardens amusement park (the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world) where we spent all day on rides, eating a lot, and getting lost in the maze of tall hedges. David hunted me down and helped get me out, which surprised me, because he’s the one who helped me get lost.
With the Mercedes tucked away on a cargo ship to Seattle, we flew to England and sailed to New York on board RMS Queen Elizabeth. I remember little about the voyage, except in the movie theater where Mom held her hands over my eyes during The Taming of the Shrew.
Below is a picture of the main hall on RMS Queen Elizabeth.
One night in New York, we walked along a sidewalk searching for a restaurant in which to eat dinner. It was dark so Mom held my hand. I looked down and saw a trickle of water in a perfect stream, as if someone had left a small garden hose running. In unison, twelve feet stepped up and over the stream. I peered to my right, cranking my head around Mom’s rump, and saw a weathered old man sitting on a stoop with his penis hanging out, and he was peeing! Mom wrenched my head forward, while Denise and Dalene giggled. That’s the only thing I remember about New York; not the Empire State Building, not the Statue of Liberty, but an old man hanging on to his tallywacker peeing on the sidewalk.
It looked like someone let the air out of Dad’s face on the flight to Seattle. He was sweating a fever, and the stewardess, as they were called in 1967, must have felt sorry for us because she moved our entire family to first-class. Dad moaned and groaned watching us eat steak dinners. Mom had a cocktail, which really upset him, because he couldn’t have one, and in first class they gave them away free.
When speaking about the trip to Europe, Dad tells the story of his older brother Ray who questioned Dad’s judgement for taking his family on a European vacation. Dad repeats Ray’s words, “Keith, you should have invested that money in Occidental Petroleum stock. You’d have doubled it in no time.”
“I didn’t even know what Occidental was,” Dad said. “I thought a vacation would be more worthwhile.”
Personally, I think Mom and Dad invested in building a family by creating beautiful, lasting memories. A fortune in itself.
To Be Continued . . .