An Australian, with Greek citizenship, there was no language barrier, a perk we came to regret. Our driver, STEVE, bragged about beating up ‘blokes,’ earnestly testified to the criminality of immigrants, and referred to his mom and mother-in-law as “whores.” Steve cheerfully drove us around Athens, dropped us off to wander the Acropolis, picked us up afterwards and forced us to have lunch at a (actually charming) waterside restaurant. Gretchen and I saw neighborhoods of Athens we would have missed and held hands tightly, cowering in the backseat, as Scary Steve turned corners on two wheels, talking about when he threatened to punch in his mother-in-law’s face, and earnestly promising that he’d be at the airport to meet our returning plane. My daughter and I each imagined the disguises we’d wear to sneak through Athens a week hence. All that said--Scary Steve got us to the boat on time.
We climbed the gangplank of Sea Dream (“It’s not cruising, it’s yachting”), refreshed by the offered scented towels, took chilled glasses of champagne in hand and entered the phantasmagoric world of the idle (idyll) rich. For seven days our every whim would be granted. We would cross three seas, read novels, swim, hike, see ancient sites, both wade and race in the fabled River Styx. We would sample fabulous foods, and indulge in an array of cocktails. Friendly and gracious staff members would pause by our lounging places to clean our reading glasses or offer dainty finger foods. And Gretchen would make fifty new friends.
Gretchen was a social creature from the time she could pull her wee self up on two dimpled feet and toddle across the sand making friends all along the unfriendly Jersey shore. She consistently chose the company of friends over family—until she started her own family—semi-disappearing as a teen, and then she was swallowed into wifehood, motherhood and her consuming profession. Other than the months I nursed her as a babe, Gretchen and I probably had never spent more than four one-on-one hours together. The greatest treat, for me, of this voyage would be my daughter’s good company.