100 years is a long time to be on a ship.
A fictional Titanic story
by Ron Rutler (I wrote this, a few years ago, for the 100 year anniversary of The Titanic’s tragedy.)
I stood on the dock at Southampton and watched as the Titanic pulled away. Oh I waved at my Grandpa and shouted wish me wells, up towards his lofty perch where he and his beloved Fedora stood posed, one foot up on the ships port side railing, but I was full of disappointment, that I didn’t get to walk up that plank. He’s a wealthy man I thought, and I am his only Grandson, he could have afforded to buy me a ticket.
As my mother encouraged me to keep waving my hat up at him, all I could think about was how much fun, he was planning on having, playing Squash while sipping a glass of cool lemonade or enjoying an expensive meal at the A La Carte Restaurant or simply ‘roughing it’ by pulling up to a table at the Café Parisien. The band onboard played a lively tune as the most memorable ship in the world slowly pulled away from its moors, and me.
“Come along son, my mom said we have got to get you home, you have homework to do you know.”
“Mother,” I asked, “how long will it take the Titanic to get to New York?”
“Well I am not exactly sure, but I’m guessing 100 years or so,” she jokingly replied.
“Seriously mother how long it will take, to sail the Titanic across the Atlantic to New York?”
“I really do not know,” she said, as she paused to dig into her large quilted purse, “here why don’t you look at Grandpa’s trip planning scrapbook, it’s probably got a few answers for that inquisitive little mind of yours.”
I turned and looked at the big ship, as it, and its four majestic stacks, made its way further into the voyage. Look mother I can fit the whole Titanic in the itty bitty space between my thumb and my index finger. Can we go on the Titanic someday mother, please?”
“Are you crying,” my mother asked.
I wiped the tear of disappointment off of my cheek and said, “I really wanted to go on the Titanic. It’s not fair that Grandpa gets to go and I don’t. I’m going to miss out on all of the excitement of her maiden voyage.”
My mother bent down and said, “Son you are a young man, with your whole life ahead of you. You will get to do things that you’re Grandpa and I never dreamed of doing. You just have to be patient it’s just wasn’t meant to happen this time, your time is coming, you’ll see. Why someday the Hampshire Chronicle will boast of the accomplishments of the young man from the Chapel District who didn’t get to float away into the sunset on the Titanic 1st voyage. You know what I think? I think something wonderful is going to happen to you because you got to stay here with your darling, amazing, wonderful mother. Besides a hundred years is a long time to be on a ship.”
I rolled my eyes and replied, “Mother, it’s not going to take a hundred years.”
“Look son, I know you are disappointed, and I can understand you feeling the way to do.” She gave me a big hug and said, “Say, why don’t we stop and grab a couple of sodas on the way home, that is, if you are not too sad to enjoy a tasty root beer.”
“Really,” I said excitedly, as I looked at the sign on the window that announced that we were about to enter, Berg’s Soda & Sundry Shop.
Mother grabbed my hand and said, “Come on we’ll sit next to the window and pretend that we are first class passengers sitting at the ships Veranda Café.“
We dodged our way through the mix of horse drawn traffic and automobiles as we made our way across the cobblestones to the soda shop. We got our root beers and found a table by the window. While mother went to fetch us a couple of straws I plopped Grandpas scrapbook down on the wooden table and began to thumb through it.
The very first photo that I saw had me visualizing myself strolling up the magnificent staircase that led up to the entrance to my first class accommodation. I could actually feel the coolness of the foot of the bronze cherub lamp that my mind had my hand resting on, as I imagined looking up at the ebb of natural light that was flooding in through the large glass domes. My mind added the color to the glass that the black and white photo couldn’t. I paused as I felt the sun shining through the picture window as it warmed the side of my body that was exposed to it.
“So,” my mom asked, “did you get to the part about the hundred years yet?”
“Not yet,” I replied, before it sunk in that she was kidding me again, so I replied “Motherrr,” and gave her a stern look. “Wait, here it is, Grandpa wrote right here, he says, I’m going to sit back and enjoy what I’m sure will be a way to short seven day cruise to New York. See mom, Grandpa didn’t write anything about the cruise taking a hundred years. A hundred years wouldn’t be a short trip.”
“Well,” my mom replied, “there could be weather delays you know.”
“Mother, it’s the Titanic,” I replied
I just rolled my eyes at her. “Mother did you know that the Titanic has a grand staircase that has oak paneling, and a clock right in the middle of all the carvings. Do you know that according to Grandpas notes, the clock dep…. Mom what’s this word?
She leaned over. Her wide brimmed hat touched my forehead as she read the word I was pointing at. “It’s depicts, the word is depicts. It means what it stands for or what it portrays, what it represents.”
“Do you know what he says the clock is supposed to depict Mom,” I asked.
“I’m guessing, the passage of time aboard The Titanic’s at sea level, would be too easy of an answer,“ she quipped.
“No mother, Grandpas printed note says; her clock and the fancy carvings around it depict, Honour and Glory,” I replied. I didn’t know what the whole honour and glory thing meant, and I was pretty sure Grandpa misspelled honor, but it didn’t matter all I really wanted to do was let my mother know what her 8 year old was missing out on. I sat there for a second staring at the chunks of ice in my glass, and the etched iceberg design that was on the side of my Berg’s Soda Fountain mug, as if I was going to find some kind of meaning in them.
My thought was interrupted as I heard mother say, “A penny for your thoughts.”
“I was just thinking, I replied, “about how much fun I would be having right now, sliding down that staircase. Can I have some more soda please?”
My mother grabbed my glass and went back over to the soda jerk to get me a refill. I flipped the page and continued my photo cruise. The first class accommodations were trimmed in beautiful wood paneling, and furniture that looked like the type that my Grandpa had in his large English Country estate. The Café Parisien even had a trellis lined veranda and a wait staff that actually had some individuals from France amongst its members. My lip began to pucker, as I once again started feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t onboard.
Mother kissed me on the forehead and said, “You know you should be happy for your Grandpa. He has worked hard to get to the position that he is in today. Besides like your Grandpa always says everything happens for a reason and I believe that there is a reason, or reasons that you and I aren’t on that ship. And one of those reasons is that you have two more weeks of school left.
Mother paused and then she said, “Son I am going to be honest with you, you see it’s not your Grandpa’s fault, he offered to take us with him but I said no, because I didn’t want you to miss that much school.”
“Mother you said no, but why? I would rather miss school then a chance to be onboard Titanic.” My tear ducts opened up and I began to sob uncontrollably. Tears fell on all four stacks of the majestic ship that the page displayed that was pasted in Grandpas scrap book.
“I…, well, I…, well to be honest,” my mom said, “it wasn’t only about you missing school, I wanted to make sure that ship was sea worthy before I put you on it.”
“But mom,” I cried, “she is unsinkable, it says it right here, in the newspaper clipping.”
“Those are a man’s words son. I have the tendency to go with my instincts when it comes to my baby. I told Grandpa that I wasn’t comfortable with him going either, but he just laughed at me.”
I quickly slurped down the rest of my root beer and then said, “I want to go home.”
“We went back to our home in the Chapel District and I went straight to my room. I turned on my lamp and sobbed, my poor me tears all the rest of the way through Grandpas scrap book. I read one newspaper clipping that talked about how there were three different grades of passengers, first class, second class and third class which was also known as steerage class.
“There’s even a Norman Wilkerson painting titled, ‘Approach to America.’ They have thought of everything, I can’t wait to get onboard,” my Grandpa wrote.
I read about the pool, the elevator that rose up and down seven decks. And I couldn’t believe the part about how only 3 of the ships 4 massive stacks were functional. Grandpa’s side note pointed out that the 4th was added to make the Titanic, which was 882 feet 9 inches long look more impressive. When I was done parts of my Grandpas scrapbook was thoroughly wet from my flood of pouting tears, and I didn’t care.
I turned away from my mother as she came into the room and set a warm glass of milk on my night stand. As she closed my door she said, “Good night sweet heart I love you.”
I didn’t reply with words, I just made sure she could hear me sniffling and sobbing.
The next morning before school I sat silently at the kitchen table, still disappointed in my Mothers decision, and read The Hampshire Chronicle account about how effortlessly the Titanic’s massive steam engines pushed the mighty ship across the English Channel to its first stop, at Cherbourg France where passengers got on and off. A photo of a man working out on the rowing machine in the ships gymnasium had a caption under it that said, “Next I’ll be off to the Turkish Bath, what a majestic ship the Titanic is.”
I hardly said a word to my mother as I made my way out the door to school. The kids at school asked me why my Granddad didn’t take me with him. I told them that my not getting to go was my mother’s decision, not my Grandpa’s.
That night after dinner I went to my room and read more about the Titanic and how it had its own telephone system, 3 electric lifts in first class, one in 2nd class, and a couple of things that I could do without, the Library, the smoking room and Barber shop. I fell asleep with the Chronicle on my chest.
The next morning, day two of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, The Chronicle’s article told of how the ship had made it to Queenstown, Ireland where it picked up even more passengers. I was amazed to read that some people in the steerage class actually sold everything they had and were on their way to America, to start a whole new life. Many sailed by themselves and planned to send for their families once they were established in their new home land.
“Would you like some more eggs son,” my mother asked.
“Speaking of eggs, Mother did you know that they supposedly have over 40,000 eggs with them and there is even a Renault, 35 horse power automobile on board? Wow, I bet that car is really fast. And listen to this she also has about 75,000 pounds of meat and nearly 1000 bottles of wine on board. Oh and yes I would like some more eggs and could I have a little more tea please,” I asked. “Is 825 tons of coal a lot mother?”
“Yes you can have more eggs,” my mother replied, and then she said, “825 tons sounds like a lot to me.”
“Grandpas notes say that she uses that much coal in a single day,” I continued.
“I am sorry that we didn’t go on the trip this time son.”
I wasn’t totally ready to give in and forgive her, so I went back to reading today’s article. I read something that I just had to share with her. “Mother did you know that the Titanic nearly ran into the SS New York as it departed from here. It says here that the New York came within 4 feet of being struck by The Titanic’s bow and they would have collided for sure if it wasn’t for the quick work of the tug boat Captains. What would have happened if the Titanic would have struck the New York? Maybe if you hadn’t made me leave the dock so soon I would have seen the commotion. Hey, maybe they would have had to delay her leaving port to repair damages long enough for school to be over. ”
“I would have to say if those two ships would have collided, it would have been a bad sign, probably more so for the smaller SS New York, then it would have been for the Titanic,” my mother replied.
After school I met up with my friends and we played at the park, where amongst other things we sailed the up and down waves of the SS teeter totter, until my stomach told me it was time for dinner. It seemed my life had been thrown a life jacket as I had survived the disappointment of not having been on board, as all of the self-pity had turned to a distant memory that sailed to the stern side of my brain.
On the third day of the voyage that I checked off on my wall calendar, we received word from my Granddad, via the Marconi wireless radio that he was having fun but wished that we were with him and that he missed us already. He ended by saying next time you guys are definitely coming along. I know you both will absolutely love this magnificent ship, I’ll send word when we reach New York, Bam voyage, Grandpa.
By day four my mind was back to focusing on just charting the course of a care free eight year old until I started hearing rumors about some sort of accident that the Titanic had been involved in. I wondered if it was possible that she had run into some other ship. No way, I reasoned the Atlantic Ocean is too big for something like that to happen. Word buzzed around school, that there indeed had been an accident, but not to worry as all passengers were safe.
Right after school I ran home to mother and found her with her head down on the table and sobbing uncontrollably. My granddads gold pocket watch and chain was clutched in her right hand.
“What is it mother,” I asked.
“Mother looked up at me wiped the tears off her face with a handkerchief and said, “It’s the Titanic…she…, she…, sunk.”
“That can’t be true, she’s unsinkable,” I replied. “What about grandpa? But I heard everyone was safe.”
Mother walked over and hugged me and said, “Grandpa loved you so much and he would be so happy that we weren’t onboard with him.” She placed grandpa’s gold pocket watch in my hand and said; “he would want you to have this.”
Suddenly I was glad to be standing on dry ground, I was happy that I hadn’t got what I wanted this time, I was delighted to be wrapped in the loving arms of my mother and then with my eyes filled with tears I said, “thank you mother, you were right.”
I was so glad that we didn’t go on the maiden voyage. I just wished that my Grandpa wouldn’t have. Now I knew why I stared deep into the chunks of ice at Berg’s Soda and Sundry. Grandpa was right everything happens for a reason. I looked at his picture over the mantle and cried.
From the Author: I learned a lot researching for this fictional piece. The little icebergs of rejections and trials that I have run into during my minds writing cruises are just bumps in the road, as I, at least to the point of this writing, have been given yet another sea of blank pages today to sail my imagination across. We all have to appreciate the opportunities that we are given and cherish the love ones that we are surrounded by. We can’t be guaranteed that we or they will be gifted with another breath or another step. I can’t imagine that any of the Souls aboard the Titanic had any idea that they had booked a hundred year cruise. God Bless each and every one of them and I pray that they all have found peace, joy, love and everlasting happiness in heaven, at the beginning of their new maiden voyage, the one that began 100 years ago.
Ron Rutler www.theraveninbermudashorts.com