|A Google image search for "Ile de France, ship, postcard"|
yielded the picture I remember from my childhood.
One of my earliest memories is of the nightmare that haunted my childhood. In the dream I would be out in the middle of the ocean on a very dark night. There would be the towering black bow of an overwhelmingly huge ship bearing down on me, white waves frothing around the hull. I would wake up screaming and my mother would come in to comfort me.
I know the dream was in my earliest years because when I was seven years old, my maternal grandmother went on a pilgrimage to Europe and traveled by ocean liner. When she returned, she gave me all the postcards that she had collected on her trip. Among them was a black and white postcard of one of the ocean liners she had traveled on. The picture was an aerial view of the Ile de France set against the ocean. I don't remember much that filled me with more terror than that picture. Being a child, I didn't realize that I could have thrown away the postcard and no one would have noticed. Instead, I kept it hidden so that I wouldn't come on it by accident.
Being terrified of pictures of ships turned out to be a life-long problem. One semester in college, I worked shelving books in the university library. The floor where I worked included the magazine section, and I would go around to the study tables to collect all the books and magazines before I shelved them. I was normally cautious, but this one day I picked up a magazine that was laying face down on a table. I turned it over to read the title. The cover picture was a photograph of a large ship, and before I had a chance to think of what I was doing, I had thrown the magazine across the room.
I realized that this was a strange phobia and for many years kept it a secret. I never told my family or friends, or even the fellow I dated for three years in college. I felt that people would find this so hard to believe that they would show me pictures of ships just to see my reaction. Then, while working at my first job after college, I met Ed, my future husband, and on our second date I told him my story of the nightmare and the pictures of ships.
I now wonder why, after twenty-one years of silence, I told my secret to a man I hardly knew. Or why I married this man who would eventually not only get the idea of living on a sailboat, but would be one of those relatively rare people capable of handling all the physical, emotional, and financial obstacles that keep most armchair sailors on land. Someone who would actually take me sailing across oceans - and to the time and place where my nightmare would become reality. Years later, looking back with hindsight, I would joke that I should have married an accountant in Kansas. Still, at the time, a physicist in Michigan had seemed safe enough.