An envisioning. 1975, January, and a flat somewhere on the edge of Budapest with the sun barely risen.

Oh to be here.

Hungary and up early. A cup of coffee and then another. Hands that feel cold and a little more coal for the fire.

Pancakes for breakfast with a knob of butter. The children visiting later and all that but peace for now. Not coming till supper time and the cleaning lady getting everything tidied up by two.

A morning to memory drift. A better time. If only. Papa having hated wars but ending up in two of them. The first war taking the big house in Vienna and the second two brothers. Someone else getting what was left after.

But things that were there in one place or another to pull out and remember by. Porcelain shepherdesses from Vienna, silverware that looks like twigs from the house in the Carpathians that Mother’s cousins owned and love letters that someone’s beau sent from the old hope chests in the attics in the summer house in Tyrol.

Old books to look through and photographs that fall out . . .funny . . .history as bookmarks. But one at the very back . . .Papa and his friends on that winter trip to where someone’s uncle had a hunting lodge. . . . way up in the mountains and snowed in for days . . .another five years and it all starting to go but no one knowing it then . . .

Grand Duke Michael (with camera) and friends in the snowy grounds of Knebworth House 1913
Grand Duke Michael (with camera) and friends in the snowy grounds of Knebworth House. ca. 1913. Vintage photograph. via

An envisioning . . . . 2002 and the house in Catawba County.

Oh to be here.

A North Carolina June. Terrace to sit out on and listen to the college boy from down the hill mow the lawn.

Things all right and a new grandchild almost every year. Done soon, one hopes, while there are still enough bedrooms to put everyone in. Wanting everyone home for Thanksgiving and that impossible otherwise.

But a fine life. Work one likes and things that are fun. Better than they had it back then, anyway. Great grandfather having had to leave home to seek his fortune at twelve instead of going to school. Made a lot of money but no. Not enough ladies to choose from, he said. More where he had come from but going back not possible. The mills not doing well enough for someone else to help run them.

Long ago and far away but still fun it must have been . . . like the dinghy that time out on the lake with a big brother to take the oars . . . a story like that with a rowboat and a creek . . . no picture but must have been much the same . . .two boys having an adventure. . . .best thing about a picture  . . . goes on forever and it doesn’t matter how it ends up.

Late 1940's photograph. via Facebook.
Late 1940’s photograph. via Facebook.

An envisioning. . . 1980 with another afternoon slipping into dusk on the outskirts of Duluth.

Minnesota and January into another February. Memories of being somewhere warmer but back there so far it’s more of a mirage than anything else.

Big house on the coast near Havana, a dining table so long it looked to be slipping into the sea and maid after maid. Father an attorney downtown and a mother that party planned when she wasn’t sipping her way through another pitcher of daiquiris.

But better. America never home. Home for husbands and children but not for oneself. No, snow and ice with lines on telephone poles where it came up to so high even the tall gentleman who lives down the street has to jump as high as he can to touch it.

But one day. Out in that tiny boat when the revolution came and mother clung to all the way to Florida.

Two albums filled with pictures that were under the seat and nothing more . . . dinner party for one of the ambassadors . . . only a mayoress now and a table by the window but the rest only a dream anyway . . . doesn’t really matter that it was all real . . .

Dinner party at the home of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Undated.
Dinner party at the home of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Undated. Photographer not known. via


An envisioning. . . 1972 and the tail end of a morning drifting away in Anacortes.

Oh to be here.

Pacific Northwest and fish that almost hop right out of the water. Fisherman neighbor down the street and three the other way. Vegetable garden big enough to barter all summer long and never run out of tomatoes.

Husband that lawyers in Seattle and children heading off to college. One for Idaho, one for Nevada and a third for who knows where, as long as they’ll take him.

Things great fun but still. Hard. Nurses and all that in Mississippi but not now. No, cleaning ladies all right but having to tend one’s children in person.

Dreams dreamed and left on a shelf. Hopefully coming back or maybe new ones that are even more fun.

But scrapbooks with things saved and memories of glories past that never leave. High school and a basketball championship won with a gym full of cheers that echo forever. Out there somewhere now if one tries to hear. Like the roar of the sea down at the beach but coming sideways instead of in . . .

Women's championship high school basketball team, McComb, Mississippi. 1945.
Women’s championship high school basketball team, McComb, Mississippi. 1945. Vintage photo. via Facebook.

An envisioning. . . 1946 and waiting on a train at the station in Tulsa.

Oh to be here.

Oklahoma and a boyfriend to visit or two if the trains run right on the way back. Mother not too thrilled. Three boyfriends back in her flapper days and a different boy to Charleston with across every dance hall in Phoenix with that big old cigarette holder sticking out of her bag and feather waving a foot above her head. No way to say much.

Both in the war but opposite wars. A kiss from each and then back to school. Hopefully, a third one to keep sooner or later but fun for now.

Coffee from the coffee shop and another hour to kill before the westbound comes in. Book to read and what must be the last troop train with men to watch . . . what more does a girl need . . . heaven . . .

Main waiting room, Union Station, Omaha, Nebraska.
Main waiting room, Union Station, Omaha, Nebraska. Vintage postcard. via


An envisioning . . 1990 and the evening coming on in the Tobago Cays.

Oh to be here.

West Indies for the winter and a treat it is. No snow and soap flakes in store windows scattered around pretend sleds. Sorrel punch for eggnog though that not a treat. Eggnog a bit tastier but not a tropical thing. Milk coming dried out of a tin from somewhere in the old empire but not like the kind they have in Ottawa.

But a balcony off the bedroom to look out at the sea and a beach to swim at whenever one’s son in law wants to take a drive. A walk once but the knees too bad and a cane needed.

Hard. School and able to do everything but not anymore. But a fine memory. Captain of the archery team at Wells and tournaments played with everyone. Almost getting the coach in the face when she walked the wrong way but not quite.

Hard just reaching for a drink and not spilling but not then. . . arrow pulled back, and nothing in the world but a bullseye to hit . . . too bad it ever ended but at least it happened . . . better than dreaming of a life filled with nothing . . .

Archery class, Elmira College, Elmira, New York. 1928-1930.
Archery class, Elmira College, Elmira, New York. 1928-1930. Image © Elimira College Archives. Fair use license. via

2000 . . Montevideo and the heat coming up as summer begins.

Oh to be here.

Uruguay and the house by the sea. Waves washing up and children that run out to meet them. Blue sea with a fishing boat going across with dolphins that arch against a bluer sky.

Christmas soon but Thanksgiving first. Well, not real Thanksgiving. No, a turkey and whatever else they can find that looks like pumpkin pie at the restaurant in town that the two American men from Berkeley own. Every American who can breathe around that table somewhere. A special holiday but even more special somehow in a place where almost no one keeps it.

California, back home, and every year with fathers cooking turkeys in the grills at the end of the driveways. Like a ribbon of houses, that had been. Subdivision that went on for miles, not like the ones they like in Uruguay that go round and round like a maze in ring after ring.

The same all those years and then not. Trip to England for a graduation present. Train trip all the way to New York and the biggest steamer in the harbor. Getting nervous halfway over, sobbing and wailing at the table two from the captain and ending up parked in the brig. Funny. That part not so good but the man in the other cell a treat. Someone from Uruguay that the British wanted, they said. But friends by London and married after.

Divorced soon after but that not to be thought of. No . . . the ship and sailing into the future . . . a crooked future but that one couldn’t know . . .

S.S. United States steamer. 1950's-1960's.
S.S. United States steamer. 1950’s-1960’s. Vintage postcard. via