One evening last month, Rick and I glanced at my computer showing a slide show of "My Pictures" as a screen saver. This one came up and we both agreed -- that first walk on our first trip to Myrtle Beach was one we would never forget.
We were staying at a mom-and-pop across the street from the condos that line the ocean. We walked between two of them, through the tall, reedy grass that gave some privacy to the condo property and as we passed through saw the ocean, as far and wide as we could see. The beach unfolded to the left and right of us, again as far and wide as our eyes could follow. And on that beach? A row of colorful blue and yellow umbrellas and lounge chairs.
We are Michigan people. We don't see things like that often!
It started me thinking on other moments never to forget, moments that caught our breath in some cases, mine in others. The photo below is from when we were sitting in the apartment of my friend Jerry in Paris' Marais district. We had walked hard on our first day, a little jet lagged, a lot excited. We came home with a bottle of wine from the wine shop, waiting for Jerry to return from work. There we were, on the fourth (American fifth) floor in Paris, sipping real French wine in real Paris, looking out over the rooftops of the courtyard. Le sigh.
I have other French memories as well, like my first close-up view of the Eiffel Tower, standing beneath and looking up. There would be other visits, each wonderful in its own way. But the first time is always special.
And below, the beaches of Normandy, below the American Cemetery, hidden behind that bank of trees on the cliff. Yes, the rows of crosses at the cemetery are unforgettable. But to walk on the beach and realize how enormous it is, how steep the hill to the flatter lands above was -- and then to imagine thousands of soldiers being dropped off in mine-filled waters off the beach, coming on shore where the enemy was perched on the cliffs shooting down at them. Wow. It makes me realize how very lucky we were on that remarkable D-Day in 1944. I wonder if the little girl in this photo had any idea what happened there so many years before. No, I'm sure she didn't, but I hope one day she does.
Rick and I share the memory of the Grand Illumination on Martha's Vineyard, an event we happened into due to the timing of our trip to the island several years ago. We were told by our hosts that this was an event not to be missed. (Timing is everything! So is serendipity!)
On this one-night-only annual event, people on the island gather for an enormous community concert and sing-along, followed by a magical walk through the Oak Bluffs Campground area. During the day, campground cottage residents have hung colorful lanterns on their porches.
As early evening turns into darkest night, the pavilion where the concert is held provides the only light. At its conclusion, it goes dark and in a magical moment, the lights on all the cottages are switched on. The effect is pure magic. Thousands of colorful lights hang from fences, railings and rooftops. People wander from house to house, often seeing happy residents on their porches enjoying the evening and basking in the compliments.
I have rarely felt such a sense of community.
Rick had been to Japan many times but my first visit started out with jet lag and culture shock and I remember little of the first few days except for being exhausted, dragging a too-heavy suitcase and experiencing culture shock and a bit of fear of being separated from Rick and not knowing how to communicate or how to get back to the ryokan where we were staying in Tokyo. Then, our friend Yuka took us to see the Daibutsu in Kamakura. I will never forget standing below this enormous bronze sculpture and thinking "I'm really in Japan!"
For me, there are several other moments that I can only describe as unforgettable. Meeting Fred "Mister" Rogers, the gentle children's television show host, was one of them. He indefatigably shook hands and chatted with every person who wanted to wait in an interminably long line after his inspiring luncheon speech at a PBS meeting.
Then there was the morning after we arrived a Morgan's Forge, a cottage in Midford, England, outside of Bath. As we walked down the hill to the bus I had my first look at this pastoral scene. Curved hedgerows and green fields dotted with sheep. I'm such a sucker for sheep! I had been in England for nearly three weeks by then, but at that moment I felt like I was in the England of Miss Ludwig's English lit classes. I felt total peace.
Of course, a memory of the heart was the first moment I stepped into London proper, traveling with my Mom. We didn't know at the time that it would be our last big trip together. I remember my eyes taking in every sight, ears every sound. All senses were on alert. That trip included loads of theatre and even brass rubbing in the country church at Stoke Poges where Thomas Gray wrote "Elegy in a Country Church Yard." I wish I still had those rubbings we made.
There was the unbridled joy of a summer's day when we were young and carefree. Cousins and close friends together, enjoying sun and water. Skiing all day. Laughing till it hurt. Mom and Dad serving up burgers and brats, beach fires. We shared the warmth and love of friendship in a joyous way that deep down we knew wasn't bound to last.
I leave you with one more magic moment, one that Rick and I shared. Shortly before the Best Picture Academy Award was announced on a cold February night in 2017, we received a call from Kevin. Molly was in the delivery room and their first child was on the way. We jumped in the car, headed for Detroit and several hours later met our grandson. I had never held a baby before -- at least, not one just an hour old. I was afraid I'd break it. Him. And that moment was just as magical when his baby brother arrived a year and a half later. The heart is just so full. (Now, there are moments when they are running and playing the life out of us, I think they will break me! Nope, not a chance!)
Some things just take your breath away. If we're lucky, we have our cameras or phones to record it. But nothing can replace the photograph in the heart.