I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.
We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.
Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.
I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.
I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.
There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.
The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.
Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.
They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.
This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.
Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.
Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.
I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.