An envisioning . . . 1990. Four in the afternoon in a café in Vienna with everything covered in whipped cream.

Oh to be there . . .

Lunch with mother’s ancient cousin. Scrapbooks gone through and pictures gazed at.  Like a dream world. The townhouse ones not. Right down the street, it is, even if it does not look it. A big sign covering half the front and a bank now.

But the country house. Out in the countryside in Hungary and wrecked. Gone after the first war at least mostly but the gatekeeper’s cottage to holiday in. Even it blasted to bits by some bombing raid gone wrong. All the way from America to visit but nothing left but the little archway where the drive went over the creek.

But memories upon memories, ones written down in that scratchy handwriting and some carried down as punch recipes attached to stories about someone’s birthday party.

Old train schedules from Mayerling to Prague to Sarajevo. So old they are that they must be from the first train that ever inched along the Balkan coast back nearly to when the sultan ruled everything to the Black Sea. Houses there, too. From when great-great grandfather married that Ottoman lady when he was with the consulate in Stamboul, no doubt. Gone after some war or the other. Somehow it always is.

But a photograph jammed into the endpapers. Grandmother with that twinkle in her eye and her little sister, it must be. Those big hats that mostly big ladies wore but made smaller.

Sweet . . . .no way to know what would happen . . .small enough to fit into one chair and sitting on the little beach on the lake . . . gone with the clothes on their backs but not for decades. . . .better that no one knew . . . .time to be happy . . .not forever by the clock on the wall but forever as long as the photograph survives. . . .

Princesses Margarita and Theodora of Greece. April, 1910 photograph.
Princesses Margarita and Theodora of Greece. April, 1910 photograph. Elder sisters of Great Britain’s Prince Philip. via LC-DIG-ggbain-04824/ In the public domain.


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