Dashiell and his family experienced quite a few mishaps while making their way from their home in the Pacific Northwest of the USA all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, to Norway, to embark on their sea voyage. So much in fact that they nearly missed the ship when it departed from Bergen.
It all started when they arrived at the airport (2 hours early), and learned their flight to Amsterdam had just been announced as delayed, due to heavy winds, and would not leave for another 4 hours. This meant they would certainly miss their connecting flight from Amsterdam to Bergen. However, this was easily remedied by the ferry ship company, who had made the flight bookings for them, and they rebooked them on a later flight.
This all seemed well and good, until the 3 travelers, weary from their 10-hour flight (plus 6 hours at the airport before departing), arrived in Amsterdam and were greeted by more scheduling bad news: their flight to Bergen had been canceled until tomorrow afternoon. Fighting tears, Dashiell lamented, “This has never happened to me!” and, “Don’t they know how far we’ve come?” and “Awww, will we ever be on the ship?”
They still had time to make the ferry’s sailing, but it was going to be uncomfortably close.
With all these mixups and changes, the airline’s computer system had accidentally sent their luggage to Norway without them! Luckily Dashiell was prepared for this event, having been in the strict habit of always stashing a spare set of clothes in his adventure backpack, should he find himself somehow splashed with puddle water (often) or streaked with mud (throughout the entire spring season). Mom and Dad had not been so forward thinking, and so, after a long soak in the hotel room tub, they aired out their clothes instead.
Although this detour had not been planned nor welcomed, it was actually the first in a series of extraordinary gifts from Time.
The next morning, fully rested and excellently fed on decadent croissants, strong coffee (juice for Dashiell, a holidays-only treat), eggs and ham, they took their flight to Bergen as planned. However, when they arrived at the Bergen airport, their luggage had not in fact arrived. After some investigation, it was revealed that it had been sent to another city in Norway, and would arrive in Bergen later today. Furthermore, Dashiell and his family could not locate the representative from the ferry ship who was meant to pick them up and drive them to the ship. “No problem,” said Dashiell, who always had all possible modes of transport on his mind. “We can take a taxi to the port ourselves!”
With no luggage to haul, it was easy to glide into a taxi. After watches were consulted all around, it was agreed that the taxi driver had little time to spare. Dashiell delighted in the taxi driver’s aggressive speed and sharp cornering, and rode the entire way with his window down, feeling the breeze in his hair.
At the port, they could see the MS Friendship, their vessel for the next 11 days! In delight, Dashiell skipped down the gangway and finally, they were aboard. Dashiell wanted to explore the entire ship, right away, top to bottom, but there was the matter of getting into their cabin to work out first, and so he amused himself patiently by looking through the telescope set up in the window near the lobby, where he could only slightly overhear his parents describing their ordeal. Late, luggage-less, sweaty and harried, they were in knots. But Dashiell felt free and unencumbered as he watched magnified automobiles make their way into the bottom decks of the ship.
It was at this time that Dashiell noticed an older lady sitting near him, reading a book called Great Scandinavian Painters. Feeling his eyes on her, she lowered her book, looked over at him and said, “Young man. I just sent for tea, and would you believe I asked for tea for 2? So silly of me. It’s habit, you see…”
The woman had a quiet voice, so Dashiell walked closer to her. She put her book down in her lap and closed her eyes, leaning back into the large, billowing armchair. At that moment, a shiny tea trolley arrived, and on it was a spectacular display of small sandwiches, tiny pastries, and fruit, with 2 delicate tea cups. “Won’t you join me?” asked the woman, now with her eyes open again, which Dashiell noticed were aquamarine blue, and didn’t look filmed over like some old people’s eyes, but bright and sparkly.
“Well, yes please,” replied Dashiell. “I haven’t had any lunch today.”
“My name is Mrs. Pierce,” said the woman, dipping a biscuit into her steaming tea. “What’s yours?”
“I’m Dashiell. And that’s my parents–over there,” he gestured to the check in area, where he could see them, talking and gesturing to the people behind the desk. His mom was rubbing her palms along the base of her neck, the way she did when things were less than ideal. “And I’m 6. How old are you?”
“No siblings, then, hmm? Just like my Carl.” Mrs. Pierce paused, finishing her biscuit. “I’ll be 85 next week.”
Dashiell devoured a biscuit himself and then began nibbling a veggie sandwich. “Who are you here with?”
“Well,” began Mrs. Pierce, who began to cough a bit then took a long, resorative swallow of tea. “I was supposed to be here with Carl. That was the plan you see when we booked the trip last year. But, well, he didn’t make it, did he? So I came alone since I knew he wouldn’t want me to miss this special voyage.”
“You mean he missed his flight? We almost did too! We practically ran here!”
Mrs. Pierce began to laugh and laugh; her old crinkly eyes got even more crinkly and her body jiggled all over and her eyes began to leak–the happy tears, not the sad ones. “Ah, yes you could say that. In fact, it’s funny you do say that because he was always late. Always! He was always overbooking himself. It kept him young, you see–staying very busy at the hospital, where he was a neurosurgeon and inventor. There was always one more patient to visit, one more family member’s call to return. It made me absolutely crazy, but then, I knew what I was getting into, since we married very young, and he was extremely driven, and always looking forward to his next challenge or project. When he was about 79, he finally retired. He stayed busy then too, as much as he could, going to meet his friends for golf and lunch. He even started going to church and tried his hand at writing a book. But you know, it wasn’t the same. He stopped being late, and that was nice, but a little magic in him disappeared too.”
Mrs. Pierce dabbed at her eyes and exhaled. “If I could do it over again, I would not care about the tardiness. Anyway. That’s a grown-up problem. Oh, and here comes your Mother,” said Mrs. Pierce, gesturing over Dashiell’s shoulder.
Introductions were made. A waiter dropped off an extra tea cup, and Dashiell’s mother gladly accepted a cup of tea and sat down to join them, explaining that not only was their cabin not ready for them but that it was not the cabin they had booked, which had promised a partial view balcony. Instead, they were booked into a cabin meant for 2 people at most, in an inside corridor.
“Well the solution’s obvious,” said Mrs. Pierce, returning her teacup to the silver tray. “You must take my cabin instead. It’s far too large for me. It’s a suite!”
Dashiell exclaimed “Woah!” and began to jump around, and his mother said, while motioning that he should settle his body, “You’re so kind, but we couldn’t do that, Mrs. Peirce. I’m sure the staff will sort something out.”
“You know they won’t, dear. If they could have fixed it by now, they would have. Just look at that woman shrugging her shoulders at your husband,” Mrs. Piece gestured to the reception area where indeed it was clear Dashiell’s father was getting excuses, and there was much finger pointing at a computer monitor.
“I haven’t even unpacked! It was never the right cabin for me anyway. Maybe if the children had joined me…” Mrs. Pierce stood and Dashiell could see that although she was 85, now that she was standing, she still looked like an old person, but he noticed her hair was not gray but auburn, she didn’t wear glasses, was well made up, and she had a trim figure.
“We can have things settled in time for the sailing party. Hand me your cabin key.”