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Essay Contest Entry: A Story-Book Romance on Holland America Line

The below was entered into Holland America Line’s trans-Atlantic essay contest. For details on how to enter, click HERE.

The following account is a transatlantic crossing in January 1972 from the American South to Europe.

It was a mist-filled January of 1972, a young woman and her Army recruited husband embarked on an ocean voyage to Europe from the American South. Having been given orders to be stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, the ruggedly handsome military man and his genteel wife decided to venture on a journey of romance with Holland America, instead of the U.S. military cramped flight arrangements normally provided to officers. The passage was full of ambiance, dancing, and moon-lit holding of hands while stars rested on reflections of the night sky. Through this time of story-book romance a child was conceived. The same child who grew into the man able to pass this tale of two lovers on a voyage of timeless remembrance.

These were the words my mother, the genteel wife of my father-a U.S. military officer, explained to me as I was growing up. Throughout my childhood I heard nothing but this inspiring story-constantly retold to those who would listen. The telling became a Christmas nativity in our home and somewhat of a religious tradition. Over the years my mother would reminisce of her cruise with her newly wedded husband. Despite any hardships we had over the years a light would flutter into her eyes and a cracked-smile would burst from her lips. The glow of a hearth fire would fill her cheeks and the words would drip from her lips as honey caresses the trees.

It has now been over 38 years since that meaningful cruise with Holland America. An experience that brightened the life of a woman who even as she lay dying with cancer in the winter of 2003, still spoke of those joyful days. As she slipped from lucid moments to memories, she retold the tale I had lived with my entire life. And with her last breath she called out to the man she loved so dearly on those water-rhythmic days aboard your ship.

My mother, Donna Grace Baxter-Bartlett, passed in November 2003. She survived the death of my brother, the death of her husband, poverty, and a harsh battle with cancer, yet, through these hardships the memory of her Holland America journey kept her spirits in harmony and my childhood warm and bright.

Thank You Holland America. You gave brilliance to a woman who shined through darkness and gave a little boy a mother who taught me what adventure truly could be.

Submitted by Rick.

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