We should never have happened, but we did. She was the daughter of a wealthy American industrialist and I was a struggling artist. We met at the home of my patron, another wealthy American industrialist — Paris was awash with them. When I first saw her, the world stopped. We were inseparable from then on.
I was late to our favorite bistro. She and her sister, Cecile, were already there, heads together, Cecile scribbling furiously. Audrey was bubbling with excitement, she was breathtaking.
They’d received a cable from their father. He needed them at home and had booked two tickets on the next boat to New York. It left in three days and they were in a frenzy of preparations.
My heart dropped. She was leaving me. When Audrey saw my face, she kissed me.
“You’re such a silly,” she whispered in my ear. “Let’s get married before I leave. I’ll book you on the boat after ours. It’ll give me time to prepare Daddy.”
We married in Southampton the day before she left.
The next morning I dried her tears. We’d be together soon. Their ship was new and unsinkable, and our lives were just beginning.
I looked through the viewfinder and adjusted the focus. I wanted to make sure I got the Company’s mascot, Duke, in the right light. Happy with the composition I snapped the photo and put my camera down. Looking around I shook my head, my mind still trying to adjust to my new environment. I’d only been here for three days and I think I was still in shock. I walked off towards my tent to change out the film, trudging through the mud that sucked at my boots.
A week ago I’d also been ankle deep in mud but the surroundings couldn’t have been more of a contrast. There, I’d snapped photos of bodies twisted around each other in ecstasy, but here they were twisted in pain. There, I’d listened to the music of guitars and drums and voices raised in joy, but here it was the music of mortars and machine guns and agony.
Last week I’d been enjoying the free love of Woodstock, this week the hell of Vietnam.
I went where they sent me, documenting the world through my camera. I just hoped I made it out of this assignment in one piece.
Every summer since I was a baby, and even before I was born, my family would head to the same place for at least four weeks over the summer. My Grandfather had built a house just back from the beach and various members of the extended family would drift in and out over the weeks, bringing their own family and friends.
We would be up early for a rowdy breakfast and then head down to the beach. I don’t have many independent memories of the beach from my very early years, just old black and white snapshots showing a snowy-haired toddler in a bathing suit running in and out of the waves, or sitting on a towel with a face screwed-up in disgust at the sand that had dared to invade my space. As the years past I was joined in the photos by my brother, another brown-bodied, fair-headed child skirting the water’s edge.
I think my memories start to be my own at about the age of six or seven. Early mornings at the beach, heading home for lunches of ham and tomato sandwiches then back to the beach in the afternoon. Very little caused us to vary our routine, except if it rained. Rainy days would lead to other adventures such as horse-riding or hiking but once the sun showed it’s face we were back at the beach.
As I grew older I practically lived in the surf each summer. I had no fear of the water and loved nothing better than dodging the breakers until I was past the break line. My feet couldn’t touch the bottom but I didn’t care I’d happily tread water for hours, bobbing like a contented cork over the undulating water or floating on my back watching the gulls wheel above me.
Those beginnings fuelled a life-long love of the beach. My idea of the perfect vacation is time spent lying by the water with my nose in a book. A vacation spent anywhere else just doesn’t feel like a vacation.
I’ve carried on this tradition with my own children, spending weeks of our summer at the same beach, living next door to the same house I spent my summers in. My mother built her own house next door to her father’s. She died over two years ago and her house now belongs to me and my brother. I look forward to the day when I can take my grandchildren to the beach for the first time.
Daily Prompt: The Natural World
What is it with my mother and high places? She insisted on meeting me at places with more than 20 storeys whenever she had something momentous to tell me. I could usually judge how extraordinary her news was by the height of the building. I’m sure there was a PhD thesis in there somewhere, but I wasn’t going to write it.
The last time mom had come to visit me in New York she’d taken me up the Empire State Building to tell me she was getting married again. The thought of what this news could be was making me very nervous.
As I walked out on to the observation deck I spied her leaning on the railing looking out over Central Park. I went and stood beside her, leaning against her gently.
“Hi Mom,” I whispered.
“Livvie” She smiled as she hugged me.
“So, Mom, what’s the news?”
“Oh Liv! I’m having a baby! I’m so happy.” She hugged me even tighter.
“Wow Mom! That’s …”
I was stunned. At forty-five my mother was having a baby.
I had to stop meeting her on top of tall buildings, because one of these days I’d throw myself off one.
I thought I’d better start this blog, because it’s been sitting here empty for quite a while and a blog sitting empty is a very sad thing.
I’m going to be posting my writing here. I’m sure it’s not going to be very good but I’m hoping that the more I write the better I’ll get. I may use various websites to help me with ideas or I may just write about what’s going on in my head or my life.
So buckle up folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.