Remembering Ship Trips and Chapel Dreams

At last, 2019 reveals its magic.

Awaiting luggage at a long‐forgotten Caribbean airport

Earlier this week, I searched through family pictures on an unrelated project. These blog post pictures stopped that work and launched this post.

One glance at the dated t‐shirt awakened old trip memories. Not a road journey, but a trip at sea:

DH and I sailing on our first cruise. 1989, I thought. Hmm, 30 years ago. I flipped over the picture: Baggage Claim. Nassau, Bahamas. 8/25/89. 

Thirty years ago. Today.

Batmon & Batwomon — as islanders would say

Something about all the yellow and black colors offered premonition for shipboard antics.

Mention costume party and we’re first in line. Alas, we thought we were quite the lovebirds, too.

Or is that batbirds?

It gets better.

Egads, what was I thinking?

Naive to cruise games, DH and I felt super‐special when we received the captain’s invitation to meet him.

Then we stepped off the elevator and saw all the other special Ones. It’s good to have your Ego Balloon deflated.

I’d like to write that girl from yesterday a letter. Save yourself future grief and tamp down that Texas hair and leave the hairspray at home. Helmet head and fru‐fru attire doesn’t become you. Save your energy for where it really counts.

Young bar greeters welcome station listeners at sea.

The cruise came courtesy of the radio station where DH worked. The free trip required schmoozing with listeners every night—in the bar du jour. All drinks on the house.

One evening, as we sailed back toward Miami, DH quizzed the women cruisers about what they had packed for the trip. He knew I had overdone the shoes. I cackled when my heel count lost by one pair.

In losing, I learned that RoadBroads must pack less. Or, at least, don’t show‐and‐tell your suitcase goods.

I also lost when it came to what I most craved on that trip: an engagement ring. We’d dated five long years. I fantasized, too, about a shipboard wedding, courtesy of that cute captain we’d met earlier.

Neither happened.

I learned expectations can bite. The years since have taught me a better life strategy. Take a breath. Wait. Good news follows every pause.

Adage illustration—here—next week.

NOTE: In discovering these cruise pictures, I realized an amazing synchronicity. 2019 marks notable life anniversaries: graduation from both high school and college; meeting my husband; getting engaged; and marriage. How did I miss these breath‐stopping connections for nearly nine months?

A Road Broad Launch: Up Close & Memorable

Below me, the ground rumbled.

Above me, the sun burned.

Before me, a fireball rocketed the space shuttle Discovery skyward.

Around me, came—nothing.

The fireball’s flash of light came instantaneously,. But, sound travels much slower at ‘only’ 1100 feet per second.

I stood a mere mile from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Delay had been the morning’s buzzword.

As the shuttle shot into the atmosphere, I crossed my fingers, held my breath, and waited.

Ears begged to hear what eyes saw.

Silence answered, round two.

Re‐living this event from March 13, 1989, I remember it as a Life Highlight. Third on my list, after meeting DH (#1) then marrying him (#2).

Discovery’s launch memory soars partly as a rebel’s reaction. It’s been a windy build‐up to this week’s Apollo 11 anniversary.

Houston, where I live, is celebrating the Big 5–0, too. First word spoken on the moon, after all, came courtesy of us. It’s beyond mere space travel. It’s jobs, lives, friends, and families. Plus, we answered a presidential call.

As DH and I describe our shuttle launch trip three decades later: answering a call, creatively.

Conjoin a Miami business trip with radio reporting gig. Our respective stations said yes.

We launched, neither of us prepared for the overwhelm.

On launch morning, we encountered an unexpected geomagnetic storm then extended launch delays. To Kennedy’s Visitor Center, we went. Pent‐up energy needed a new home. We played astronaut. We reread mission manuals. We interviewed other reporters.

Anything to relieve nerves that multiplied. Minutes morphed into hours.

Underlying the emotions were tough memories. The space shuttle Challenger had blown up two missions before.

Many of us at the cape that March morning had worked the Challenger tragedy in some capacity.

We were space junkies. Our press passes provided sensational seats to the shuttle ride. But, three years earlier, we’d learned those seats can hurt.

Still, we gathered again, some in the media grandstand and others along the camera riser. Ahead of us, at the horizon, stood the shuttle launch pad, heating up. To the upper right, do you recognize the iconic mission countdown clock?

Nine minutes to launch, we reporters settled down. It’s our ride, too, a journey of sensory overload magnified and delayed by pressure and sound waves. Physics I still don’t understand.

Finally, Discovery launches.

I eyeball the countdown clock and begin to pray. Under my breath, my mantra becomes “please get us past “Go to throttle up.’ ” Those became NASA’s last words before Challenger exploded.

As I pray, the ground rumbles as if a thousand trains are heading our way. The roar booms, threatening to raise us all up. I cup my ears. Teeth chatter, toes digging into floorboards. Where’s terra firma?

The winds arrive next, engulfing us in sensations that collide like shipwrecks, stacking one atop another. I brace my feet, clasp my desk space with both hands. My shirt billows in and out against my chest and stomach. The hair on my arms jerks to standing as my head curls vanish.

As quickly, it’s 75 seconds, we’re past go to throttle up and now, it’s all a memory. Giddy with overwhelm, I reach for my pocket camera, hands shaking. The professional must transcend the personal.

After the camera’s film is developed, I spot the blackbird flying close to the space shuttle

How did she survive Discovery’s launch?

Later I realize the bird was probably flying as far from the launch pad as where I was standing.

Perspective matters.

Isn’t that why we journey? To feel and to see?