Auf wiedersehen, bon voyage


Adios, arrivederci, bon voyage; all good things must come to an end. It was time to say goodbye to the lovely Viking Jarl cruise my Jackson friends and I had taken. 

On this, almost the last night of vacation, our group of ladies from home looked forward to a fun-filled evening of food, entertainment and of being with each other as we prepared for a fare-thee-well, Bohemian folk dinner at the Court of the Village of Cicovice, a countryside restaurant out from Prague.

Life doesn’t always turn out as we planned. I must say, for me personally, the Danube River cruise ended on a somewhat out-of-step, off-beat note, leaving a little chaos in the wake.

I often find myself backstroking north against the currents, when I should have been dog paddling, going south with the flow. Even now, months later, back home in Mississippi, and writing this article, I shake my head in bewilderment. I would love to don an air of sophistication, to hi-step over rolling waves, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Would that it did, but the life jackets I wear don’t always hold me up high enough; my nose and mouth often fill with brackish water.

Before my friends and I left for our dinner on this special night, for some unknown reason, memories from this same land we had just visited and would soon be leaving, filled my brain.

Years ago, husband Willard, Jane and Ed Draper, and I had cruised the Danube River. On our stop in Prague and on one of our excursions from the city, I had been selected to ride bareback on an ass, in a field out from Kalosca. Why me, I had wondered back then. Why me?

And now years later, on this ladies trip, out of several hundred people, yours truly was once again one of the chosen—to walk out onto a field; same field, different horseplay.

This time around I stood rigid while a blue-robed cowboy’s cracking whip tickled my ribs and fluffed my hair. Why me?

Ass, ass, where are you? I wondered. Please come back. I’d rather ride you and be flea-bitten than to lose the tip of my nose from a cowboy’s lash.

But the Kaloscan field jaunt had been a day earlier. This was a final chapter of another year, another trip, and getting ready for our “farewell” dinner excursion I made myself shake off those negative feelings. This is a celebration, an evening of saying goodbye to a lovely cruise and to some of our new-found friends, I reminded myself. Dressing to the nines, I donned a silver lame’ turtleneck top with matching pants, bling shoes and large rhinestone earrings.

A coach carried us to a rustic country hall a few miles from Prague. When our Mississippi group was seated, yours truly, unconsciously sensing that somewhere in the building a lamb might be led to the slaughter, had very carefully weaseled a seat with my back to the stage and had melted into a chair.

We were entertained by a lively ensemble of dancers in traditional dress and served Bohemian food while the band played not “Midnight Train to Georgia,” or “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” but a 2018’s versions of “Bohemian Rhapsodies.” 

Before we were more than somewhat into our cups, the music stopped. The young, auburn-haired lead dancer popped the microphone for attention; he then put out a call for a volunteer to join the well-choreographed professional troupe.

With those words, a knot tightened in my stomach. My mouth went dry, sweat balled under the silver lame’ top and trailed down my arms.

The drum tempo upped; river currents churned. 

Face flushed, chin touched my chest, legs gripped the chair legs, I hunkered down.

A churchy hush filled the room.

A hand tapped my shoulder. His smile a white flash, the red-haired dancer looked down at me. I rewarded him with a grimace of pure terror.

This too shall pass, I reminded myself.

The background music to what I was feeling was not, “Do the Hokey Pokey,” or “Swanee River Boogie,” but “Oh Lord, Our Help in Ages Past.”

I felt like I had a rock on my head, a ruck-sack on my back, and Gladiator boots on my feet. The nimble-footed dancer groaned as he hoisted me up.

The perky smile that had been on the young dancer’s face now turned into a jerky one, his eyes bored into mine with sorrow.

“The old accordion’s playing…”

I think, if the Sun will print it, a picture taken of somebody some of you might know, but also might not claim to know, says it all.

Auf Wiedersehen to the Danube.

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