I have a shoebox of pictures that has been sitting in a corner of my bedroom for many months. Today I picked it up and looked through it. Pictures from when I was a baby, a toddler and a school kid. Pictures of me and my friends from high school, college and my early twenties. Pictures of my wedding and my kids. What will I do with this shoebox of memories? I will use it as the inspiration for Throw Back Thursdays. Each week (hopefully) I will pick a picture and try to recreate the story behind that picture or pictures. Wish me luck.
The picture I chose today is of me at age twenty in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. This was about two and a half months into a four-month adventure in Europe with my friend Kathryn. We had taken the overnight train the night before from Florence and were spending the day wandering around the city. The pigeons in St Mark’s were ridiculous. They were, at times, a little frightening. If you stopped feeding them they would follow you around pecking at your feet and reminding you that they were there. Just in case you hadn’t noticed the few thousand of them lurking around. Every once in a while something would startle them and they would all rise and fly around for a few seconds. The noise from their wings was deafening.
At lunch time we found a little cafe with tables and chairs outside on one of the canals. We thought we had ordered sandwiches and two glasses of wine that we could afford but the waiter brought out a bottle and plopped it on the table. Even though we protested in our best Italian we ended up blowing the whole day’s budget on a bottle of red wine that was so delicious that in the end we didn’t care how much it cost. Guess we would be eating crackers for dinner. The sun was shining and we had no cares, other than the fact we would be eating crackers for dinner. The waiters were no doubt having a good laugh at our expense. They probably hadn’t thought about the fact that they wouldn’t be getting a good tip. If they got one at all.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the tiny streets and looking into the stores. The carnival masks, that were everywhere, were beautiful but kind of creepy at the same time. Brilliant colours and dramatic shapes covered in bright ribbons and jewels. Crimson lips and smoky eyes seemed to be watching you from the stores walls. I could picture some of them on a tall man with a long black cape and hood skulking around corners and sweeping unsuspecting young girls into dark corners. Venice, for me, was one of those cities that I found exciting and scary. It felt mysterious and just a little dark. Not a place I would want to be late at night yet I imagined they have some great parties.
At the end of a long day we took the ferry back to our hostel. Kate fished the bottle of Amaretto we had bought in Florence the day before out of her backpack and we sat on her bunk, toasted Venice and ate crackers. The next day we would take the train to Vienna and our adventure would continue. The Best Thing in Life is remembering days like this and smiling a little.
I don’t have many regrets in life. Wait, that’s not true. That first walk down the aisle was way wrong. Okay, so maybe the perm in the ’80 wasn’t my best choice either. Oh, and that time I forced my son to wear socks and sandals to the beach. (Sorry honey. I really do still feel bad about that.) Well then I guess I do have some regrets. My biggest regret though, is that I didn’t keep in touch with a friend.
I met Kathryn Murray in the summer of 1984 in Banff. We both worked at the Banff Springs Hotel. I worked in the kitchen and she worked in the laundry room. I think we met through her roommate? Regardless, we hit it off and spent almost every day off and evening off together. She was from Ottawa and had just finished a year of psychology at Queens. Her dad was a captain in the Canadian Navy and was stationed in Esquimalt. Kathryn was so chill and we just clicked right away. Working in Banff was great but meeting new people was probably one of the best parts.
At some point, after a few Malibu and orange juices one summer evening, we decided we wanted to go to Eupore. We had stolen a couple of large oval trays for the main dining room and were “surfing” down the grass bank behind the staff residences. Life is good when you’re young isn’t it? I would imagine the conversation went something like this…. Me: Hey, pass the Malibu. Her: Wanna go to Europe next summer? Me: Sure. Her: Any orange juice left? Done. We were young and didn’t have a care in the world other than making sure the head waiter didn’t catch us with his serving trays.
That’s me “surfing”
Working in Banff was a lot of fun but it was not a good avenue to save money (most of it was spent at the bars) so at the end of the summer Kathryn went back to Ottawa and I went back to Vancouver and in August of 1985 we met up in London and planned out the next four months. We spent the first month exploring Scotland and Western England. There was a great wine bar in Inverness that my uncle had suggested we try. (this was our idea of exploring) We had been staying in hostels for almost two weeks straight by that point and making our own meals, so the promise of good food and wine was all the incentive we needed. I can remember that evening so clearly. We talked about so many things and drank so much wine. I can still hear her giggling as we stumbled back to our bed and breakfast.
After an amazing month in Greece with a group of crazy Aussies, we made our way up through Italy and then on to Austria, Switzerland and Amsterdam. We eventually made it to Paris in late October and were staying in a really sketchy hotel on the left bank. We were traveling with a girl named Barb from Edmonton that we had met in Austria. I was feeling a bit run down and bummed out and realized one morning that I was done. I was tired of sleeping in a different bed every 3 or 4 nights and eating from street vendors. (Although the crepes in Paris are phenomenal) I made the decision to go back to England and stay with my uncle for a couple of weeks before flying home. Kathryn decided to stay in Paris with Barb and I lost touch with her.
At the time I didn’t think much of it, but now that I am writing this it seems so odd that we could be so close and have such unique experiences together over that year, yet just stop communicating. Well, we were pretty young I suppose. I have tried over the years to find her. I wish I could get in touch with her again. I miss her. I regret not making more of an effort. Would we still have as much in common? It would be one of The Best Things in Life if I had the chance to find out.