Well, my first day of solo travel since last June when I went up to northern Italy after 7 delightful weeks with Susan— and it went well.

I brought out the big CD container I brought with me on the trip but hadn’t brought out— Kim had brought a bunch of classical music on an MP-3 to plug into the stereo system, but we never did that, but now that I’m on my own, I listened to some pretty good music.

I heard Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits and a couple of Emmy Lou Harris Complete Collection discs, and started with Tom Lehrer’s That Was the Year That Was, which has some of the greatest social commentary on it of anything from the mid-60’s. Perfectly delicious.

Very nice

And three different old ruins today—

It was another overcast AM so I foodled around reading and packing, etc., before going to breakfast, during which the weather got bright and sunny.

So I took a couple last images from the hotel: one from the balcony of my room, one from the beach.

and headed toward Priene.

Priene was a big Roman city on a hill top, with a great view toward the west of the plains between it and the sea.

Then I went to Milet, just a few km away. This complex was down in the flat, not up on the hilltop, but had a theater, baths, and much of the normal Roman city buildings and foundations.

Had a little picnic when I got there, sitting in the shade, looking across at this scene (it’s the theater) right from the car.

These are the letters indicating the row of seats in the theater.

These are the baths.

And some of the loot for sale around the perimeter of the place.

And I have learned the Turkish word for poppies (gelincik) in a big way!!!

And here’s most of the whole field from the first really great batch of gelinciks I saw alongside the road,

And here are the best shots

As I drove south I hit the coast just before I got to the third ruin of the day—

And here’s the Temple of Apollo in Didyma, which was originally Greek and not Roman, and was an augury center on par with the Oracle at Delphi, NW of Athens.

And here’s what’s across the street.

And then I saw this field, found a place to turn around, headed back, parked, and went to work.

The problem here is that the deep poppy reds just don’t get accurately captured unless you are using really good slide film— and normally Kodachrome rather than Velvia.

Not even the highest-end digital bodies can quite snag the deepest, most saturated reds.

On the way to where I’m staying, Heraklea ($18 a night— there’s even an empty bed next to mine) I saw this fortress island.

And this horse (with special Turkish saddle)

And since Thursday, when the kids got out of school for Sovereignty Day, there were lots and lots of kites being flown. Saw another brave little stand of them yesterday, and it made me think of one of the two little short stories that always touch me emotionally. I’m not sure I could read either one now without a big reaction.

One is the original story (from which the book, play, film, etc. “I Remember Mama” derived) Mama’s Bank Account, by Katherine Forbes.

The other is a little gem from The Reader’s Digest called “The Day We Flew the Kites” and which begins with the brother of the writer bursting through the door into the house calling for “more string!”

I found it on the web and added it below. And, yes—it had the typical effect. . . .

So I got to think of that great little story (a favorite of my mom’s) every time I saw kites in the sky the last couple of days.

As I send this out, it’s the early evening of April 25, which is my father’s birthday. And I’m now only ten years younger than he was when he died. And I had this pretty complicated relationship with him, that, along with the terrible stuttering in my early years, probably formed me more than any other factor.

But he was a good guy who tried hard and just didn’t hit a lot of home runs—or even triples. One of the things he believed in the most was leavings things better than you found them— from a picnic ground to the earth itself.

And he did. And I was thinking about that a lot today, so (even more deliberately than usual) I was carrying a plastic grocery sack into all the antiquities places I visited and bringing out some trash. I do that often, as I suggested above, but much more deliberately today. Happy 96th, dad.

The Day We Flew Kites

“String!” shouted Brother, bursting into the kitchen. “We need lots more string.”

It was Saturday. As always, it was a busy one, for “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work” was taken seriously then. Outside, Father and Mr. Patrick next door were doing chores.

Inside the two houses, Mother and Mrs. Patrick were engaged in spring cleaning. Such a windy March day was ideal for “turning out” clothes closets. Already woolens flapped on back yard clotheslines.

Somehow the boys had slipped away to the back lot with their kites. Now, even at the risk of having Brother impounded to beat carpets, they had sent him for more string. Apparently, there was no limit to the heights to which kites would soar today.

My mother looked at the sitting room, its furniture disordered for a Spartan sweeping. Again her eyes wavered toward the window. Come on girls! “Let’s take string to the boys and watch them fly the kites a minute.”

On the way we met Mrs. Patrick, laughing guiltily, escorted by her girls.

There never was such a day for flying kites! There aren’t two such days in a century. We played all our fresh twine into the boys’ kites and still they soared. We could hardly distinguish the tiny, orange-colored specks. Now

and then we slowly reeled one in, finally bringing it dipping and tugging to earth, for the sheer joy of sending it up again. What a thrill to run with them, to the right, to the left, and see our poor, earth-bound movements reflected minutes later in the majestic sky-dance of the kites!

We wrote wishes on slips of paper and slipped them over the string. Slowly, irresistibly, they climbed up until they reached the kites. Surely all wishes would be granted.

Even our Fathers dropped hoe and hammer and joined us. Our mothers took their turn, laughing like schoolgirls. Their hair blew out their pompadour and curled loose about their cheeks; their gingham aprons whipped about their

legs. Mingled with our fun was something akin to awe. The grownups were really playing with us! Once I looked at Mother and thought she looked actually pretty. And her over forty!

We never knew where the hours went on that hilltop that day. There were no hours, just a golden breeze now. I think we were all beside ourselves. Parents forgot their duty and their dignity; children forgot their combativeness and small spites.

It was growing dark before, drunk with sun and air, we all stumbled sleepily back to the houses. I suppose we had some sort of supper. I suppose there must have been a surface tidying-up, for the house on Sunday looked

decorous enough.

The strange thing was, we didn’t mention that day afterward. I felt a little embarrassed. Surely none of the others had thrilled to it as deeply as I. I locked the memory up in that deepest part of me where we keep “the things that cannot be and yet they are.”

The years went on, then one day I was scurrying about my own kitchen in a city apartment, trying to get some work out of the way while my three-year old insistently cried her desire to “go park and see ducks.”

“I can’t go!” I said. “I have this and this to do, and when I’m through I’ll be too tired to walk that far.”

My mother, who was visiting us, looked up from the peas she was shelling.

“It’s a wonderful day,” she offered; “really warm, yet there’s a fine, fresh breeze. It reminds me of that day we flew kites.”

I stopped in my dash between stove and sink. The locked door flew open and with it a gush of memories. I pulled off my apron. “Come on” I told my little girl. “You’re right; it’s too good a day to miss.”

Another decade passed. We were in the aftermath of a great war. All evening we had been asking our returned soldier, the youngest Patrick Boy, about his experiences as a prisoner of war. He had talked freely, but now for a long time he had been silent. What was he thinking of — what dark and dreadful things?

“Say!” A smile twitched his lips. “Do you remember — no, of course you wouldn’t. It probably didn’t make the impression on you it did on me.”

I hardly dared speak. “Remember what?”

“I used to think of that day a lot in PW camp, when things weren’t too good. Do you remember the day we flew the kites?”

Winter came, and the sad duty of call of condolence on Mrs. Patrick, recently widowed. I dreaded the call. I couldn’t imagine how Mrs. Patrick could face life alone.

We talked a little of my family and her grandchildren and the changes in the town. Then she was silent, looking down at her lap. I cleared my throat. Now I must say something about her loss, and she would begin to cry.

When she looked up, Mrs. Patrick was smiling. “I was just sitting here thinking,” she said. “Henry had such fun that day. Frances, do you remember the day we flew the kites?”

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey

posts by Robert