When I was a child, my father was a busy doctor, the Chief of Cardiology at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He worked very long hours during the week and often on the weekends. Travel was our one opportunity to be together as a family of four and when we traveled, we traveled well. I was only five years old went we first ventured off to Europe but, even so, my sister Julie and I knew that we were very fortunate to stay at the finest five-star hotels, such as the George V in Paris or the Villa D’Este on Lake Como in Italy. To be exposed to such history, beauty and culture at such a young age added a depth and richness to my education that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
In the months prior to these wonderful trips, Mama worked with us on our table manners at dinnertime each evening so that we would be prepared. Sit up straight, napkin in the lap, elbows off the table! “S’il vous plait, monsieur, may I have the crepe suzette?” my sister timidly asked the waiter at La Tour D’Argent. “Oh, Madame et Monsieur, your daughters are so well behaved!” the Maitre’d would say with a broad smile of approval as we dined as a family in the finest European restaurants.
One evening in Italy, just prior to the dessert course, the perfectly starched tuxedo-clad waiter appeared with a silver tray and proceeded to serve us each with a little white plate. Then, with a flourish, he presented us with one large crystal bowl of peaches and one large crystal bowl of water that he laid down, just so, in the middle of the table. With a polite smile, he bowed, pivoted around and walked away. My parents were stumped, not quite knowing what to do. I then confidently reached out with my little five year-old hands, picked up a peach, delicately swirled it about in the water, gently shook the water off the peach and set it upon my little white plate.
Dad gasped in horror. “Les, what are you doing?”
With great confidence, I gestured to the sophisticated diners all around us and said, “Look, Daddy”. Indeed, all the Europeans were delicately swirling their peaches in the crystal bowls of water. My parents were quite impressed when they realized that I had so quickly caught on to “how it’s done”. But for a creative child like me who lived in a dream world, that first trip to Europe when I was five years old only fueled my imagination further. Whether I was swirling peaches in water at the dinner table in Italy, touring a French chateaux or exploring an Austrian palace, I fancied myself a queen or a princess from another era. For me, travel was a grand adventure, a source of creative inspiration that reached into the depths of soul.
Mama went to great effort to diligently show us pictures of all the European art and monuments months in advance. Having majored in Art History at an Ivy League school, she was determined that Julie and I be well prepared for the journey ahead. “Look, Girls,” she would say, while pointing to the woman in the hat standing back from the crowd in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. “What do you suppose she’s thinking? And what do you suppose those two people are talking about at the table?” Mama had the ability to capture our imaginations and travel fueled our creativity even further.
In my years as a single woman, toughing it ought as a Singer/Actress in New York and Los Angeles, I didn’t have the extra money to travel. Now, as a happily married woman to my husband George, I am thankful to be able to see the world once again, with my beloved George at my side. In the blog posts to follow, I look forward to sharing more about our adventures around the world.