On my recent travels I began reading the travel journal of a dear friend, who passed away about five years ago. Her daughter is also one of my closest friends. When she offered to loan me her mother’s journals, I was only too delighted to accept. There were ten journals, so I started reading the one covering the place that my own family would be visiting this trip.
I opened the slim red faux leather-covered journal on the plane. Along the inside cover is written all her personal contact information and VISA and travel check #’s. It struck me how here it is only fifteen years later and we would never have written so much personal info, and we don’t even use travelers checks! But the most fabulous revelation is of course, my dear friend’s handwriting. I am reminded how much I miss her. Reading her travel journal is a profound experience, as I see her writing and hear her voice in my head. It is as if she wrote me a letter. But it is also a novella. And I can’t wait to read it all.
She writes of the travel experience and sites, of course, as well as the foods and wines. Back then, there was no Euro, therefore different currencies & conversions are included, which I find fascinating. But, there are also personal ailments and difficulties. At one point she had such swelling in her leg, a travel doctor prescribed antihistamines and No Alcohol for the duration. I found myself reading as one reads a novel- will this character be able to handle this situation? I am rooting for her.
Then, familiar characters enter the scene. My own father- and mother-in law meet my friend and her husband in a foggy beach town in June, and the four of them spend a couple of days together. My friend notes how relaxed my in-laws seem, and what souvenirs they buy. My mother-in-law bought a cute hat; alas my friend did not, because her husband laughed at her. I’m saddened when they part ways.
And then. Suddenly Dear Diary tells me of the great accident. Her husband turned too quickly and walked into a pane of non-safety glass. (I had heard of the incident, of course, being close friends of the family, but I hadn’t expected the story to be in this volume. Plus now, I am reading it in present-tense in the handwriting of my dear friend.) I am shocked and heartbroken as I read of the shards of glass stuck in his leg, use of tourniquets, his (temporary) inability to move his foot, and the panic of the chaos as the hotelier and doctor try to determine how to get this man down 78 steps in Positano. (Three strong Italian men and a wrought iron chair.) The doctors exclaimed MAMMA MIA! upon seeing the glass shard in his leg. Meanwhile, they had to relocate to the one hotel in Positano with an elevator, Le Sirenuse. This was the hotel featured in one of my favorite movies: 1994’s Only You starring Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr.
Deciding to fly home for potential surgery, they tried to reach their daughter via phone. Alas, she happened to be moving that weekend (hubby and I were helping), one phone line was turned off and the other landline not turned on yet. We didn’t all have cell phones back then. So they called my father-in-law to pick them up at the airport and drive them to the hospital.
My friend writes of the pleasant customer service received flying home. Wheelchair escorts, upgrade to bulkhead seating, reconfiguration of the lavatories so that she could assist her husband. Free continuous brandy for my friend. I guess she didn’t make the 6 days without alcohol as prescribed. No wonder. Can you even imagine?
My friend was also an artist: she would sketch and watercolor scenes from their travels. Sometimes, she’d use water from the local lakes and rivers, so that the creation would be of essence. To honor her, my daughter and I brought along water colors on our trip.
I’m not the best painter, but I do enjoy sketching and such. Here’s my representational water colors:
And here’s my daughter’s:
My friend’s original watercolor:
Miss you, Dear Friend.