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Portofino -- Chapter One (Excerpt)

The First Glimpse of the Mediterranean was always turquoise. "A turquoise bracelet studded with diamonds," my sister Janet said. I had two sisters. Janet, my angry fifteen-year-old sister, and Rachael, who was meek and thirteen.

Janet liked to clasp her hands in front of her and say thigs poetically, like about the Mediterranean being a bracelet. That afternoon the bracelet was framed between the dingy apartment buildings that line the railroad tracks behind the city of Genoa, Italy. Genoa was the place you changed trains in on the way to Santa Margherita.

Santa Margherita was where the summer vacation really began. The smells were right. Gardenia, ferrous oxide from the rusted train tracks, and a hint of urine. Not ammonia-rich, real, stinking, French-style urine, but the subtle Italian variety: a faint apology for the need to relieve oneself in a corner by the ivy-covered wall next to the fountain at the end of the platform.

If we had been righ we would have taken a horse and carriage all the way from the station to the Pensione Biea in Paraggi. We took the blue diesel bus instead.

Mom sat in the one unoccupied seat. the girls and I straddled the luggage. Dad stood staring out the back window. He was still in one of his Moods because Mom had almost made us miss our connection in Milano. She did that every year. She always needed to get something important she had forgotten to pack for the vacation. So she would rush out of the station and cross the road to the shops opposite to get what she needed.

Every year Dad said the same thing. "If the train leaves before you get back we'll just go without you!"

We children would sit, hearts pounding, praying for Mom. "Dear Jesus, please get Mom back in time. And if she's late please speak to Dad's heart so he won't leave her at the station."

God answered our prayers. Mom would make it back, but God would not go so far as to make Dad forgive her for making us all nervous wrecks and for risking spoiling "the few precious days of vacation I need so badly!" as Dad said.

Copyright 1992 by Frank Schaeffer