Yesterday I flew nonstop from Atlanta to Rome, and I appreciate the expertise of the pilots who delivered us safely and the speed with which they got up there. I don’t need to dwell on the cramped quarters and discomfort because, after all, the flight was only nine hours long and the end result was—Italy!
I couldn’t help comparing this flight to how I first went to Italy in 1965—by an ocean liner, the SS Independence. It was fairly common in the 1960s to transport army personnel and their dependents to Europe on a luxury ocean liner. It was one of the best perks of military life in those days, and my parents were thrilled when they found out our family would be taking a leisurely 10-day cruise across the Atlantic to Italy.
We left the harbor in New York City amidst confetti and colorful paper streamers thrown from the ship to the pier. On deck, an orchestra played lively tunes. My family watched the last of the skyline fade away and said goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, then went below deck to find our rooms. We explored around the ship, taking special note of the salt water swimming pool. When my parents discovered my little brother climbing on the rails, they knew it wouldn’t be long before the sound was called, “Man overboard!” They promptly located the childcare facilities for us, and from then on we played away our days. Since I had never been to a daycare before, it seemed like a wonderland. Every toy, doll, or game imaginable, and lots of kids to play with! I’m sure my parents played away their days too.
At night we all dressed up in our very best and were served in a formal dining room. We had a waiter, Mario was his name, who was assigned just to our family. With great flair he cut the corn off the cob for me since I had lost my front teeth. He enthusiastically brought my younger brother and me cubed jello with swirled whipped cream on top—the ultimate in fine dining as far as we were concerned. Why have crème brûlée or tiramisu or baked Alaska when you can have jello?
We saw the Azores and almost saw whales. We spent the day in Palma, Majorca, and another day in Casablanca walking close to our parents, and another day exploring Gibraltar. Before we ever got to Italy, we had gained a lot of knowledge by our sea voyage.
I would tell you that three years later, we took another ten day cruise back to the States on the SS Constitution, which was the same ship that Grace Kelly and her family and her bridal entourage took to Monaco before she married Prince Ranier, but you wouldn’t believe me. But it is true.