My parents divorced in 1975. I was in seventh grade and twelve years old. After the divorce, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia, remarried, and started over. My dad had visitation rights each weekend and half the summer – 45 days. The weekends were a moot point – a weekend commute of almost 8,000 miles one-way was not practical. Especially in 1975. My communication with dad was limited: letters took weeks to traverse back and forth with a reply. I have most of the letters saved in a box in the basement. Phone calls were too expensive and the connection was shaky, too.
Forty years later a much has changed, but a weekly commute still is not practical. There is the internet with e-mail, blogs, Skype, and more. Even a phone call is made easier, too.
That first summer, my dad got us for 45 days, the summer of ’75. I think it was more my mom sent us to dad. All three of us, at the same time. I have memories, my passport, getting shots, a few slide pictures from the trip, but not much else. Memories come back in bits and pieces, jogged by an anniversary or a probing conversation with my brothers or mom. Sometimes those conversations are painful and the memories are not there and have been lost.
What I DO REMEMBER is clear. Crystal clear. We traveled from Houston to Miami on National Airways and caught a British Airways flight to London. We had to stay in London for a few days so my dad could get visas for the three of us. I remember the daily trek to Saudi Embassy until my dad was able to get permission from the Saudi government for us to travel. While we were in London, we took in the city. We stayed in a Holiday Inn near the Swiss Cottage London Underground station and a short walk to Regent’s Park. We had adjoining rooms – I slept in dad’s room and Warren and David shared a room.
When we were not walking around London with dad or out exploring with him, we watched TV. There were three stations – BBC1, BBC2, and ITV; and there wasn’t much to watch during the day – it was either cricket or tennis, and we were discouraged (banned) from watching TV after lights out. None of us had never heard of cricket before and I found it interesting. It’s similar to baseball, but very different. As it turns out both sporting events were big: bigger than I knew at the time.
— Clay Watkins (@makingdayscount) July 5, 2015
This morning, I noticed that today is the 40th anniversary of Arthur Ashe’s Wimbledon championship. It is also the anniversary of the debut of the bikini, but that is distraction, in more ways than one. I remember watching the Wimbledon final with my dad – he was rooting for Ashe and me, Connors. He got the last laugh. It was a momentous occasion, which was lost on a bright 13 year-old from Sugar Land, Texas.
A few days later, we got our visas and we were on our way to Saudi Arabia and another story.
It is interesting how the mind works, how memories are intertwined and connected. I now realize what a momentous occasion Ashe’s victory was. I try to remember that when I see my own children – W and O.
A lot has changed since 1975 and the world is richer for it. Yet, sometimes it would be pleasant to have just three channels and letter writing as the main form of communication.
I wrote my mom a letter yesterday while the B and the kids were boating. It goes in the post tomorrow – with a real stamp. I have a few more letters and postcards to write before W and I had home tomorrow. The lake is calm and water adventures beckon, so I had better jump up jump in, and seize the day. Today is gonna be a great day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one memory of days gone by, jogged gently and brought to the surface.
What were you doing 40 years ago today? Can you recall?