Slip-sliding away


A bottle of complimentary champagne in front of us, Edrie Royals and I sat out on our balcony. Now late afternoon and back from our tours of Hong Kong, the sun was a burnished copper and it was almost time for our ship, the Celebrity Millenium, to set sail in the East China Sea for points, sights and scenes unknown. “Here’s to the good times,” Edrie said, as my friend and I raised a glass.

It had been a whirlwind three days since the two of us left Mississippi and I have to confess, it was hard to remember the city highlights of Hong Kong when you’re sleep deprived, have a hard time hearing the guide over shifting bus gears, a roaring motor, and your hearing aids don’t have an ear for English, spoken with a Shinto dialect.

These were the first moments the two of us had been still and for some reason my thoughts slipped away to the first trip husband Willard and I ever took out of the country. Not long after our daughter Linda Gayle was killed in an automobile accident back in l970, Dr. Gryce Rotenberry, a physician,( and also at that time, the mayor of Mendenhall,) in a very kind and thoughtful gesture sent my husband and me to a medical meeting in Hong Kong and Japan.

If I remember correctly, we stayed at the Mandarin Hotel. One of my talents nowadays seems to be holding on to thoughts for years, but then throwing them away just when they’re needed so please overlook or forgive any errors I may make as to time, place, locale and most especially, world events back then. If I were in a history or geography class, my grade would now probably be, a D-…I certainly stand to be corrected.


I remember this, though. As always, my husband’s golf clubs went everywhere with him. He would even take them to the Sanatorium in Magee, where Willard went twice a month to see patients. And one thing I do recall, he was the only person on this medical trip carrying a set of golf clubs.

Somehow or the other, while I was on a shopping expedition or a prearranged tour, and Willard wasn’t in a scheduled medical meeting, he finagled a way to play golf. For some reason he was set up to play, not in Hong Kong but in what I recall was spoken of as the New Territories bordering Communist China. As I remember it, Hong Kong was under British control, and mostly cut off from Mainland China. The dictator, Mao Tse Tung controlled China, and crossing over would have been either risky or a big no-no.

By himself, golf bag over his shoulders, cleated shoes in hands, Willard caught a taxi to the train station, boarded, and rode in a compartment with three ladies from Hong Kong. They were all going to the same course. The train either briefly crossed the border into Communist China or came very close to it. Willard ended up playing eighteen holes of golf with the ladies and thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

Back in the very early ’70s that game would have really been something, I thought. So many years ago and so much water under the bridge since Willard and I made that long ago trip.

The ships motors cranked. Edrie held up the bottle and poured us another glass of champagne.

Gentle waters licked the ship’s hull. The engines hummed. We were moving. As our ship slowly pulled out of the harbor, Edrie and I toasted each other and then said goodbye to Hong Kong.

Waves grew stronger, they slapped the ship. She and I stretched back in our chairs. This was the first time I had really caught my breath; and as we watched the city slip slide away, I couldn’t help but wonder: what’s behind the ultra modern skyline we were saying goodbye to, and the up to the minute shopping galleries and restaurants we had seen and visited.

Leaving the busy crowded streets behind and wandering down through the old mazes and alleyways, there were also centuries old temples, Buddhas, and tea houses. Perhaps haunting shadows of other worlds are out there: incense burning, fortune tellers, maybe ladies of the night, brothels, and opium dens.

Who knows?

Drifting on down toward the East China Sea, I checked my watch. Still on Mississippi time, but my stomach told me, it was time for dinner.