Passage to Paris: In Lynne’s Footsteps
Three chapters in Paddy Eger’s Letters to Follow, as Lynne sailed to Paris on the SS United States, took me back to when I “officially” became an expatriate, a state that was to last half my life. I began, a few years after Lynne, on the great ship that was built in 1952 and sailed until 1969. Although there were plans to return her to oceangoing service, those were scrapped in late summer 2016. For the good memories, though, you can get Hull IPA in cans with a beautiful photo of the ship, released in late February 2017.
As Lynne was to find out, we dressed to travel back then, and I wore my lovely suit, my hat, my gloves, my high heels, my bag and my umbrella in order to board in finest style. Lynne was from Montana at that point, and I was from Texas, so we were both dazzled by the great ship, the international people on it, and the momentous crossing. I wonder if I didn’t know to tip the steward and just stood there like Lynne …
Standing at the dockside railing, listening to the blaring horns and moving away from the “dot-sized people on the dock” is something I’ll never forget. Like Lynne, I “needed to learn what ‘port’ meant,” then learn the meaning of “posh”–“port out, starboard home,” as some say were the best accommodations back during the British Empire.
Lucky Lynne had a porthole in her tiny cabin, but I, alas, did not. I was alone in a closet-sized cabin on C deck that seemed to be in the hold even though it was one deck above it. There was a single overhead light that, switched off, left me in pitch blackness—in which the ship pitched as well. I don’t remember free champagne … but maybe that’s just a lapse.
When I watched Lynne sway and grab the nearest chair and think she was coming down with the flu, I knew exactly what was happening. Seasickness happened to me much sooner than it did to her and didn’t go away—I spent most of the crossing on the upper deck, wrapped in blankets, while my three new French friends brought me apples (not rolls and soda water) to munch on. Memories different from Lynne’s, and I stayed friends with the young Parisians all during my two years there. I admired how she could dance every day—I barely moved. I was glad it was a three-day crossing!
Once in Paris, with my long window-doors open to the city, I was in heaven. I was so envious of Lynne’s getting $50 for a half hour performance for shipmates—I lived on $100 a month for my two years there!
I had found my true home and so I went back to Paris very often over the years, renting apartments each time, seeing old friends from that first visit and just living in bliss. I saw my first snowfall there, walking for hours, mesmerized by the movement with no sound. My heart still is there, walking those streets; Paris is the home of my soul.
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After returning from Paris to finish graduate school, Kay spent her 35-year university-teaching career in Kobe, Japan. Once back in the U.S. ten years ago, she was a book- marketing manager for a couple of years, and now coaches authors who are hesitant about book marketing. She uses other hours in her day as president of a large women’s group running multiple activities and on the board of the local EPIC Group Writers. Kay hopes someday to add “published author of a popular novel” to this list.