Dearest Rachel –
Usually, after dinner at their house, Daniel and I will follow Dad into the family room to chat for an hour or so. You probably remember those days well enough when we would be invited over, although you’ll understand that it’s on more frequent – and regular – occasion these days. Forgive us if I admit that the conversation is rarely about the past as such; we are trying to move forward, after all.
But we did touch on old memories just a bit last night, as I’ve gotten my latest itinerary, and Dad can’t help but reminisce about the trips we’ve taken in the past as a family. Yep, after the last one blew up in my face, I’ve wiped the soot off, and I’m getting back on that horse again, so to speak: I’ve booked another cruise for myself, this time, in the middle of March.
I can’t say as I blame Dad for his reminiscences. If nothing else, the memories we made on all those cruises are the sort of things that stick out in one’s mind in ways that the every day, day-to-day life don’t really. It may be true that life is mostly made up of ‘days like this,’ but they’re so indistinguishable from each other. The ordinary (and yes, I realize that the phrase is perfectly relative) are the sort of days that leave me even now sometimes struggling to come up with something unique to write to you about. And I know that I’m not obligated to do so, especially considering that I know you’re not reading any of these; this little discipline of mine is one of those ways I’m trying to keep myself sane, after all. And traveling is a way to assemble a little bit more interesting content.
Ironically, some of the more memorable moments have come from the most ordinary of occurrences; that of gathering around a table for a meal. After all, everybody needs to eat every day, but some of the most interesting moments even on our travels have involved those times when we were eating together. I think it’s why I have such an affinity towards restaurants; we might be comfortable enough eating while watching television at home, but it’s not the same as gathering around a table, and actually having a meal in front of us.
Anyway, the cruises had a certain dynamic to their dinners that, while being in some ways the most ordinary part of the trip, had their own unique… flavor, if you’ll pardon the expression. There were the port reports we used to deliver over dinner – I still have seven such reports in my letter queue that I never got to deliver, because I never got there those couple of months ago. It was the one time that the family was guaranteed to be all together – we might go on separate shore excursions in various ports (although as a general rule, we would tend to stay together, but not always), but we would always regroup in the evening around the dining room table.
Dad especially likes to relate the one meal on our Alaskan cruise (the first one we went on as a family), where I made the mistake of ordering tempura when it appeared on the menu. Our waiter specifically suggested that I might not like it (which, to be sure, was a curious admission for him to make – the idea that some of the food prepared on the ship wasn’t likely to be up to our standards, when it was fairly clear that we weren’t the sort to be accustomed to the opulence and culinary excellence aboard ship, should have been a red flag), but it had been some time since we’d had Japanese food, and besides, they do everything so well here… what could go wrong? Well, it so happens, however, that tempura must be served more or less immediately upon removing from the fryer, and pre-preparing it and re-heating it upon it being ordered results in a rather limp, soggy mess. And our waiter knew this, and tried to warn us. He didn’t have to say ‘I told you so’ when it came out of the kitchen and was presented to us; we knew. At least he was more than happy to bring out the entry (Peking duck, if I recall correctly) that he had recommended previously.
Yeah… good times.
It’s weird to think that this time around, the dining table will probably be the most awkward part of the trip – and even more so, I’m doing this intentionally. I could sign up to walk in and out on my own time and at my own leisure; I could even request a table for myself, apparently. But I know that’s not what’s best for me. I need to socialize with other people, and so I’m deliberately making myself a part of a larger table with other people, and seating myself at a specific time, to force me to talk with the others around me. Hopefully, it won’t be as uncomfortable as sharing the table with that one fellow (and ultimately, his whole family) back in Basel, since we should all be able to speak English, but there are no guarantees in life, are there?
Anyway, the process has been set in motion yet again, and now, it’s just a matter of getting everything paid and packed and planned – that last, I’m leaving to the professionals.
So, wish me luck, honey. I might just need it again – and perhaps, a little more than last time.