Meet….. She has no name. Sorry, I can’t name a candle. But she’s been with me since 1971 when I spent my college graduation summer in Salzburg, Austria; my first summer away from home -my first trip to Europe.
I remember when my parents drove me to the Kennedy Airport and watched me join the crowd of travelers as we boarded for London. I was nervous and when we were comfortably buckled in, even though I had given up cigarettes as a prerequisite for this trip, when a guy sitting across the aisle took out a pack of Parliaments, my old, familiar brand and he looked over at me with a friendly smile, with his pack outstretched… I couldn’t say no. I didn’t want to say no and that cigarette, I still remember it, felt good in my hand. 1971, we were all smoking on planes then, everywhere. Remember that time?
I was scheduled for a week in London, with a family to stay with-friends of friends who opened their home to me. Bee and Brendan with two kids- a girl, close to my age and a son, a few years older. And even though we were strangers, that didn’t last long. They took charge of my introduction to the country and over the years, I got to return the favor when they traveled New York for the first time. We remained friends for years. I fell in love with London that week and knew I’d been back.
On to Austria Why Austria?
My education plan after graduating with a BA in History, was to make my first visit to Europe to get comfortable before grad school and the start of my studies in Central/East European history. I think my parents would have preferred that I stay in England. Germany and Austria still held the horrific memories of the Holocaust for them as Jews but I was interested in the Germany and Austria that created the horror, the century before and they ultimately respected my plan.
Austria was gorgeous. Salzburg, a small city, had become known as the Sound of Music country where the movie was shot. I was enrolled in a summer program in the countryside, at the Klessheim Palace. Actually we stayed in the renovated barn and servant living space. It was heavenly.
What a glorious summer even it was in the Nazi heartland. A summer of music everywhere. A summer of travel with new friends. Hang on, I’m remembering…
And now back to my lady above. Salzburg was an amazing place to spend a summer. Divided down the middle by a river, footbridges connected the old city(1500’s) from the new city (1700’s). It was the birthplace of Mozart, the home of Beethoven and more. Down the narrow cobblestone streets, we found great shops. Down one street, I found candles everywhere. Shops of candles. And in one, my lady. I was grabbed by her eyes. A candle for $2.00. I bought lots of candles in those shops and burned them all over the years. But not her. She’s going strong, right next to me, on my night stand, on top of a stack of books. We have been together for almost 40 years even though she has no name.