I just finished reading Dead Wake by journalist and nonfiction author Erik Larson.
This nonfiction story is about the last transatlantic crossing of the luxury ocean liner, the Lusitania, in 1915. Larson takes all the documented history and weaves it so that it reads like fiction. He brings vitality to a cast of factual characters:
the passengers on board,
the captains of both the Lusitania and
the submarine, U-20, that sank it,
President Woodrow Wilson,
the secret group of Room 40,
and the ship itself.
Larson elevates history from boring to exciting.
The first book I read of his was The Devil in the White City. This story takes place in Chicago and reading it before going to Chicago on vacation a few years ago greatly enriched that trip. This Lusitania story sent me on a journey of sorts, as well.
In 1950 my English mother and I crossed the
Atlantic from New York to Liverpool aboard the Cunard Line M.V. Georgic. This was the same route that the Lusitania sailed.
Like the Georgic, the Lusitania was owned by Cunard Line. The only reason I know the name of the ship I traveled on is because I have a menu from a tea party I attended while on board.
The inward trip that Larson's Lusitania story launched me on is one of questions and reflections. The questions will probably ever be answered, as my mother died 10 years ago, and my 94 year old father's memory is stuck on a few of his favorite stories. (Plus he did not make the journey with us.)
There is not a single photo from this trip. Can you imagine? How I wish there was a snapshot of me on deck! Or better yet, a picture of me and my mom together, sea breezes blowing our hair and smiles on our faces.
We were in England for months and yet there are no photos of either of us from this time. This makes me so sad. The only thing I have from this trip is the tea party menu and two brief stories my mother told me.
I cannot remember my mother taking any photos in her life time. I have no recollection of her ever having a camera in her hands.
In the photo-snapping times of now, this would never happen.
No photos from such a trip seems beyond grasp.
There are so many questions I want to ask my mother. Why didn't I think of them while she was alive? (If I did ask her for details about her stories, she would brush them aside as unimportant.)
How I wish I would have been more persistent in finding out more about her experiences as an English war bride,
a young mother,
the early years of her being in this her new country, knowing no one other than my father,
and, of course, our seafaring adventure and visit to her family in England when I was 3 years old.
I have already explored a little about the Georgic. There is even a YouTube video of it. And because I want to know more about this trip and my mother's early marriage, I may start digging into more resources.
I've heard you shouldn't live in the past, but it sure is nice to visit it.
If photographs unlock memories, I'm glad I'll leave so many for my children and grandchildren.
t.t.f.n. ~ Carol