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Wrinkles on a transatlantic crossing

By Staff | Mar 12, 2010

My Grandpa Repnow use to tell me “go ahead a whisper your wishes and before long someone will hear them.” He had made three transatlantic crossings in his lifetime, and before I was the age of 10, I could name all three ships on which he had sailed. My interest in transatlantic crossings began on the lap of my grandfather. As he shared his experience on these grand ships, my mind often sailed away to the day when I, too, would be able to cross the ocean.

Whispering about sailing on the North Atlantic became a routine for me. My finances and my age were putting the brakes on any strategy for a transatlantic crossing. Naturally, a bit of petulance emerged until a visit to the state library allowed me to step on board any liner my heart desired. Before long the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth 2 became my best friends. Opening books and seeing the great dining rooms, ballrooms, and grand staircases delighted my curious soul.

Ocean travel has never been listed under my temporary whimsies such as mountain climbing on Mount Everest or exploring the Jungle of Liberia. With impulses, we often place them on the backburner of our adventure range, turning lukewarm or being replaced with another adventure that may seem more stirring. Ocean travel has always remained on the front burner and my curiosity keeps this pot of information at a steady simmer.

Half the fun of any travel adventure is being prepared and ready when that opportunity comes sailing your way. Back in the late ’90s the Queen Elizabeth 2 was the only liner making transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, England. Rumor had it that these crossings may be coming to an end. No more postponing my whispering dreams. In the fall of 1998 on a beautiful warm October day, as the band played on deck, guests danced and champagne was poured, the QE2 sailed down the Hudson River past the Statue of Liberty and out into the North Atlantic. Kindly the sunset created long shadows on the deck as huddled travelers disappeared indoors. Colossal early on was the skyline of New York City, now saucer thin.

Before my eyes were the Master’s pastels hurled and smudged as never before. Not in competition with the big, beautiful North Dakota sunsets over an ocean of golden waving grain. Rather another masterpiece that my eyes could enjoy this time with an ocean of blue, green, and turquoise. Coral tones shepherded by golden fans ushered in their colorful pals in the crisp fall air. The final ambiance appeared in columns of indigo that deepened into swirls of purple before greeting night. For as long as my eyes could observe, this vessel was now cupped in the cobalt rhyme of North Atlantic-so began my first transatlantic crossing.

A couple of days out to sea, and we were informed that the captain would be dining at our table. Having worked in my parents Laundromat made pressing my used tux shirt a breeze for this special evening. Wanting it to look almost new, I sprinkled it with a water bottle and placed it in a plastic bag. As the heat of the iron combined with the starch and moisture, a keen sense of crisp began to materialize on this shirt.

Right behind this was a conversation of a lifetime-in the room were three women all pressing men’s shirt. One gal came over and asked me to please stay until she returned. Within minutes she returned with her husband in tow! She informed Herbert that “See-men can press their own shirts.” Well, this is all it took for the other two gals to blow off a bit of steam about pressing their husband’s clothes, as well!

Their charisma was real, and before long they had captured my attention. One gal explained that she was pressing clothes as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. At that very moment she took action. Down came her ironing board, she unplugged the iron, and she proceeded to the basement door where she tossed the clothes down the stairs! She turned to her children and said “if they can land a man on the moon, by gosh they should be able to eliminate ironing!”

Standing in the middle of two warring factions was exciting. Herbert left the room, and we all introduced ourselves. Fredericka was a retired cop from New York City and married to Herbert; next Meita, from Poland, a stay-at-home mother; and Nora, a retired teacher from New Jersey. All three were marking special wedding anniversaries with a transatlantic crossing and caring of their husband’s tux shirts. We connected in the laundry room, and whenever we made acquaintance about the ship, it was a fascinating conversation. It is interesting to note that our bit of pressing was very minor compared to the 17,000 sheets pressed on a transatlantic crossing.

These ladies had lived in a time when pressing most things was required. It made me think about their relationship with ironing. I am sure at times it felt like the duty to family laundry was almost stealing their autonomy. They can be called peacemakers because when pressing issues came along they ironed them out. On this crossing, instead of letting the wrinkles of the past be a point of irritation, they became a point of interesting conversation.

I share with you a recipe that is comfortable at home or served on transatlantic crossing.

Repnow is a

Rugby resident.

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