Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the note-in-the-bottle story

in case you haven't heard this story...

It was December 31, 1999, Y2K Eve (and, co-incidentally, a year to the day from when Jerry and I had met, but that's another story)...

Jerry and I were on the beach in Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean near St. Martin... We were staying in a house on the water where we had a beach all to ourselves... Jerry, being Jerry, had brought along a box of large trash bags, and he has an unusual habit, as part of his vacation de-stressing routine, of walking along and picking up trash, cleaning up the beach. There was plenty of trash on the beach that day because there had just been a hurricane hitting the island a month before.

I was sitting in a beach chair nearby, reading a book (of course), when he came running over to me, all excited. He had found an old bottle containing what appeared to be a note inside. He broke open the bottle, and we tried to read the writing on the brittle old piece of paper. It was in German. Being Americans, we of course are not bi-lingual, so we brought the old note back home with us to find somebody to interpret.

The note, as it turned out, had been written in 1995 and signed by a five-year-old girl named Jana, put in the bottle and tossed in the ocean in the Canary Islands. The bottle had somehow made it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and ended up on that beach in Anguilla.

The note contained Jana's address in Germany, so of course Jerry wrote to her. Soon he got an email back from Jana and her parents. Later that year, June of 2000, we were going to be in Germany along with Jon and Tom (we were celebrating Tom's graduation from high school), so we arranged to meet Jana and her family in Cologne. Jana by then was ten years old.

We hit it off with the parents and became friends. We visited them two other times when we were in Europe and stayed at their house one of those times.

Anyway, where I'm heading with this is that Jana, now 18 years old, and her older sister Saskia are visiting us here in Minneapolis for three weeks, arriving a week from Friday. Part of that time, about ten days, they and Jerry are traveling to the American southwest, and I'll tell you more about that later. This will be their first time in the U.S.

By the way, the note from the bottle is now framed and hanging in our living room.

And arriving this Friday are my sister Mary and brother-in-law John from New Jersey. They'll be here for a week, and we are very much looking forward to their visit. I'd tell you more now, but this post is already too long, and, besides, they deserve an entry all their own. :-)


elle + josh said...

what an amazing story! it's too perfect! are you sure you didn't make this up?

Howard said...

hi Michelle -- how u doing??.. no, i didn't make it up -- my imagination isn't quite that vivid. :-)

muse said...

I love the message in the bottle theme...it is almost like messages sent in balloons.

Well, here goes that memory thing again...Do you remember a book in which a pioneer (I think she may have been a widow)woman would write messages and send them into the wind? The messages became entangled in sage brush or found hanging from barbed wire later to be found by cowboys, ranchers, outlaws and the like. Eventually she found love on the prairie.

How is the Russo book? I'm trying to read Irving's: The Water Method Man...can't get into it-which is unusual for an Irving novel for me.

Howard said...

Muse --

i don't think i know the story of the woman throwing messages into the wind!

am enjoying the Russo book very much, makes me want to read more, hadn't read any of his (i saw the TV mini-series version of Empire Falls, does that count?).. he is reminiscent of Irving at times, with his attention to detail.

The Water-Method Man is a bit odd, true, it's obviously before he hit his stride with Garp. Urologists were a recurring Irving theme in those early books, along with bears, wrestling, all the rest. Why urologists? His grandfather was a urologist.

muse said...

I will pick up a copy of the Russo.

I read Empire Falls it was a masterpiece!

Irving's use of the recurring theme of the urologists? I think it has to do with time...how things we hold as dependable/fail proof will eventually change as well.

Set Free the Bears-that was a strange book, but he described this road warrior adventure most intriguingly-I couldn't put it down. I laughed almost cover to cover and thought all the while...he must be kidding!

I would love to attend a seminar on Irving.