|I never remembered my Grandmother when
I was growing up. I know she was at all the family functions and I have some vague but
distinct recollections of her in the background, scooting around, shoveling hotdish or
playing with a baby, but nothing too memorable. She was pleasant but never too engaging
with the children although she did her fair share of cooing when needed but as a rule, she
always kept her distance. I felt that she was interested in what we were doing but never
interested enough to pass on playing with a baby to attempt to please or placate the
teenagers. When I really began to know my Grandmother was on the day of her husband, my
The day of my Grandfather’s funeral was normal except for the actual viewing of the body. I had been to only two other funerals but this was the first one that I would actually saw the dead person in the casket. Granddad was always pretty spry so his death came as a bit of a shock to us kids, but as the facts began to emerge, it was evident that he was fairly old and in deteriorating health, so his death wasn’t too shocking to the people who paid attention. The funeral was held in the church with a forgettable luncheon afterwards and I ended up sitting with my same-aged cousins and siblings in the transitional table between the adults and the children. The teenage contingent was fairly sizable but the pecking order, based solely on chronological age, was well established and not something to be challenged or taken lightly. I talked to my cousins in that internal family shorthand that allowed for a large amount of information to be exchanged in a very short time. We usually just saw each other on holidays so this unplanned meeting gave us a chance to discuss everything from the funeral to mutual friends. We were socializing on our own level and didn’t let a little thing like a funeral get in our way.
The meal was finished quickly and the rest of the time was spent chatting amongst us on topics including general Grandfather stories, upcoming personal activities and the weather. The tragedy was fairly contained and every time I looked over at my Grandmother, she seemed to be holding up pretty well. There were not a lot of tears and she seemed to be engaging with family and friends in a graceful and easy manner. I kept looking for some tremendous scene of crying and self-flagellation but it didn’t appear that anything was too stressful. I finished my food and walked over and gave her a hug.
"Sorry about Grandpa dying," I said as we embraced.
"That’s fine, honey," said my Grandmother, "Don’t worry about it. He is going to be just fine."
I felt better and appreciated her absolving me of all responsibilities. I went home with my family and the topic of the death of my Grandfather wasn’t brought up again. Time went on and Grandmother was not around much. She was traveling a lot with her girlfriends and didn’t have time for a lot of the secondary and tertiary holidays. She was always around for Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving but the numerous birthdays of Grandchildren were acknowledged with a card (and cash) and a brief note. She wasn’t overly concerned if she missed a recital, a ball game or a random summer picnic. She always was there for graduations and she made a point of showing up for mine.
She made an entrance at my graduation that I believe is still talked about today. She showed up fashionably late, completely in purple and glided into her seat as thousands watched. She was an impressive site for the unaware: a large hat, a loud laugh and one hell of a handshake. As she slid by others in her row, she made a point of excusing herself in a friendly and polite way. When she finally was situated, the graduation began as if her sitting down was the cue to begin. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I thought I saw a glimpse of a flask the few times I looked over at her, resplendent, in purplish tones. When I was walking across the stage, I am positive that she whistled one of those impressively powerful and professional whistles that rang throughout the crowd. When I finally got back to my seat, my classmates around me didn’t know what to say, as they were as dazed as I was. The graduation concluded, and my classmates and I began to scatter for the last time. The feelings of loss weren’t there but the importance of the final gathering was gnawing at me so I turned and watched them all assemble for the final time and then wander in different directions.
"You won’t see that again," said Grandmother, "make sure you take it all in."
I obeyed her and I didn’t turn my head towards her, I just continued to look at the different faces and their equally different facial expressions. Some people were done with learning and others were just beginning their educational adventures but she was right, this scene was not going to happen again in my lifetime. Mortar boards and tassels were being dismantled, gowns were being retrieved and discarded and the chaos of a mass disbursement of classmates was randomly fascinating.
"So, what do you think?" asked Grandmother.
"Well, you are right," I said, "this isn’t going to happen again."
She patted me on the shoulder and said, "Once this settles down, I have a few ideas to run by you."
I promised that I would get back to her soon, hugged her, and went off with my friends to get knee-knocking drunk. I walked across the parade field and glanced back as she eased by into the family throng like a big purple cloud. Everything was under control and off I went into the night with the plan of cracking wise, wooing women and of course, planning on drinking with adolescent panache.
The next morning, I awoke with a raging, monstrous hangover, covered with grass and related stains. The night’s recollections were generally intact but still hazy as I took this opportunity to quickly inventory my life’s adventures to date. It was a comical performance by my classmates; and myself drinking like amateurs and acting like fools. The collective wisdom of the group was minimal and the collective ability to drink like adults was even less. However, no one died, no one fought and everyone was included. Overall, it was an appropriate ending of our collective lives together. The unfortunate remaining issue with my final high school experience was the hangover. My head ached, my mouth was polluted with tastes and toxins that easily withstood several teeth brushings and the nausea that embraced me made me a broken and disgusting human being. If I shut my eyes and gather in the thirty-year memory, I can still sense the physical discomfort brought on by my drinking.
My non-drinking experiences were also shared with my classmates as well: we had a good idea of what was going on in the world, we seemed like good citizens and collectively, we seemed in control and not overwhelmed. A few kids were staying close to home, whether entering the work force or attending a local college or technical school. The town was ready to absorb all the available classmates and continue to grow with this new blood. The remaining graduates would marry soon enough, impregnate or become impregnated and begin the cycle all over again, replenishing the supply of children with untold batches of their own. Finally, a few of us were off to far-away places to embrace the world of undergraduate education.
As I lay awake, counting bruises and piecing together my adventures, my Grandmother walked into my room and sat down. She was dressed casually, and thankfully non-purple, and looked at me and said,
"I see you have discovered how to drink. And it appears that you have learned well."
"Aw, Grandma, be nice to me," I whined, "I graduated last night and we all went out."
"I don’t care if you drink," she replied, "I think all you did last night has been done before and probably more elegantly as a rule."
I couldn’t argue with her as I looked around the room and saw filthy shoes, muddy pants and a few mystery clumps of something on my jacket. My head throbbed and I didn’t want to get into an argument with her because I had nothing to defend my actions except my ignorance. However, after a few more comments, I realized she wasn’t criticizing me, she was just giving me a hard time and she was good at it. The change in her behavior from sweet, demur Grandmother into a hip wiseguy was a bit abrupt but welcome. She was holding her own and making me work hard to keep up with her. As I lay there, dehydrated, morally bankrupt, deprived of sleep and in need of a shower, I realized that I never gave my Grandmother a lot of credit.
"Since I am not going anywhere right now," I muttered, "Why down you run a few of your ideas by me."
"Sounds like a good plan," she smiled, "Now, shut up and let me get all this out."
I nodded and she began laying out an idea of us traveling around the world, seeking out her old friends and raising a bit of hell. She would pay for the basics to get us from here to there but she was firm that we both had to contribute some money to the overall plan. The targets were mainly going to be Europe and the Middle East because those areas were where she had most of her fun before she was married. She had always been a bit sketchy about her activities as an college student in the middle 1940’s but I knew, through my mother, that she was a bit of a hell raiser on her own. She had some famous friends that she still corresponded to this day plus her friend she had known since college, Irene "Pinky" Paquin, who she wanted to bring with us. I just listened with a dumbfounded look on my face. She continued with other ideas.
"I figure we spend a month in Copenhagen, one in Lisbon, two months in Paris, a month in Rome, a month in Alexandria and we can leave a month open for whatever strikes our fancy," she concluded.
"Let me get this straight," I said as I began to try to sit up in bed, "You want to go to Europe with myself and Pinky and screw off for about a half of a year?"
"Generally, that is the idea and maybe a whole year. And don’t forget Alexandria."
I sat straight up in bed and said; "There are a few flaws in your plan."
"Let’s hear them," said my Grandmother.
"First off, I have to go to college. I have a scholarship and I can’t risk that by zooming around the world."
"Okay," said my Grandmother, "Not bad. But I have an idea to fix that."
"Assuming you fix that," I said, "What about Mom? She will crap if she thinks you are taking off without discussing it with her first."
"I can handle your mother," she said, "and she doesn’t scare me. Anything else?"
"Not right now," I said, "You take care of those to challenges, I am still up for the discussion."
"Can Pinky come?" she asked.
I always got a kick out of Pinky and she was in great shape, like Grandmother, and always was a lot of fun when she was around. "Sure, Pinky is welcome," I said, "she will add a little class to the group and I would want someone to keep an eye on you."
"Let me get working on these things right away," said my Grandmother without reacting to the Pinky comment, "I’ll be in touch."
I got up and showered and thought about the potential adventure in front of me. My Grandmother was never much of a joiner or an instigator so this immediate wanderlust confused me a bit. She hadn’t done it with any other of her grandchildren so I was also curious why she picked me. The addition of Pinky was an interesting one because she and Grandma would have to help each other if we actually embarked on this journey. They were both almost eighty and I was not going to spend this time toting their bags for them.
These issues were pretty much moot as I thought that Grandma was just having fun with me but there was a look in her eye that made me believe that she may pull this off. The hangover was blossoming into a nausea-inducing low grade fever and I felt I had expended myself enough for the day so I made a conscious effort to avoid noise, light and people and disappeared into the cool and forgiving darkness of the basement. The only physical activities I involved myself with included using the remote control, taking aspirin, drinking sugar-laden carbonated beverages and staying out of the light. I decided to lay low that day and recuperate.
The next day, I had received a phone call directly from the President of the University that I was planning on attending. It was on the answering machine and I discovered before anyone else in the house, which avoided a discussion of untold velocity with my mother. I heard the voice, which was somewhat familiar, leave a brief message to call the private number. In order to make sure, I called the University switchboard and asked to be directed to the private number, in case it was a prank. The University operator seemed a bit pre-occupied and transferred the call to the President’s secretary. I said hello and asked for the private extension and waited. As I waited for him to pick up the phone, I was running countless reasons why he was calling. He could be revoking my scholarship due to my embarrassing drinking episode of the other evening, to formally deny me admittance after a last-minute review of my academic accomplishments or just call me up and ask me why in the hell was I even entertaining higher education. The wait was only momentary and before I could continue thinking, he said hello. I introduced myself and began to apologize almost immediately, in case it was a prank. The last thing I wanted to do was to annoy the college President, especially before I was even formally enrolled.
"I am sorry," I said, "But I think you called me."
The President, nonplussed, had heard my pimply freshman voice, asked my name again and said, "Yes, I called" in the same booming voice that had left a message earlier.
Before I could go any further, he interrupted me which, in hindsight, was a wise move on his part.
"I will keep your scholarship for an extra year," he said, "I think you should go on the trip with Elinor and Pinky."
"How do you know about that?" I asked, "Who told you?"
"Pinky told me," he said, "and this is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Go to Europe with those two and flirt with a couple mermaids while you are at it."
I didn’t know how to respond. First, I didn’t realize his connection with Pinky, and second off, I had no idea what he met about flirting with mermaids. "Okay," I said, "I have to talk to my folks about the trip first. And don’t forget Alexandria."
"That’s fine," said the voice, "I will send you a personal letter giving you all the authority you need to put school off for a year. There is nothing so pressing for you to get here too soon."
I was waiting until supper to spring this new plan on the folks. The dinner was easy going as the graduation festivities had everyone a bit pre-occupied so this summer meal was supposed to be free and breezy. After allowing the food to go around the table once, I decided it was time to jump in with both feet.
"Grandma and I are planning a trip," I said with a shaky voice.
My father and mother barely looked up and one of them said, "Oh that’s nice. When are you going?"
"The middle to end of summer," I responded.
"How long are you going to be away? A week? Asked my mother.
"No," I paused, "I think we are looking at six to twelve months."
I can’t remember the details immediately following that statement but I remember a fair amount of noise and motion. I recalled a fair amount of arm waving and my father standing up a lot. The conversation was one of those that you have a good idea that the other conversant had no idea that the topic was coming. Although Grandma had promised to handle her daughter, it was evident that no handling had occurred to date. The questions kept coming and they all zeroed in on details such as "Why are you going?" and inventive variations thereof. The three of us kept going around, discussing this issue when my Grandmother appeared in the kitchen.
"I see you told them," said Grandmother, "Good, it saves me time."
My mother looked hard at her mother and said, "This looks like your handiwork."
"Absolutely," said Grandmother.
The ongoing conversation eventually laid out all the available details: Pinky, the one-year postponement of my scholarship, the rough timing and action of the trip and a few things that I knew my Grandmother made up on the spot. I wasn’t going to say anything, as she was doing just fine by herself, and then it got quiet. I found out during this exchange that Pinky’s brother was the president of the University so at least one mystery was resolved.
My folks, battered by both of us, acquiesced to the general plan but asked for some other details. Such as specific itinerary, contact names and numbers and anything to allow them to start justifying the adventure. They left the kitchen, presumably to get some fresh air, leaving Grandmother and myself alone since the hangover morning.
"I see you regained your color," said Grandma. "It appears that you can bounce back from a hard night of drinking."
I thanked her for her pep talk and asked if she had talked to Pinky. She smiled and said that Pinky was excited and looking forward to the adventure. The phone call to her baby brother took all of two minutes and even though he wasn’t thrilled about pulling strings, he did what all baby brothers do when their sisters want something: they do it. We agreed to meet the next day with Pinky and sort out the details and just as she appeared in the middle of the parental debate, she disappeared with a wave of a hand and promised to be in touch.
Right before lunch, the phone rang and it was Grandma and Pinky. They were downtown at a local restaurant and told me to head down for a strategy session. I hopped on my bike and was there within ten minutes of the call.
"Hi, Sweetie!" said Pinky and I leaned over and gave her a big hug. Pinky and my Grandmother were long-time friends who had obviously planned a few trips together. As they talked, I realized they were old hands at adventure and they were doing me a favor by hauling me along. They were both getting on in years but they were still in great shape, had high energy and seemed to know a lot of people. A lot of interesting people. They began to list the places they wished to visit and the cities became a litany of exotic destinations. Lisbon, Copenhagen, Alexandria, Rome were some of the names that made Pinky’s list and just as soon as a city was listed, a litany of friends and contacts were added as well. We weren’t going into any city without some plan and then I knew we were going to be okay.
Pinky and Grandma were not afraid to have a few drinks and thanks to my recent memories of the hangover, I wasn’t anxious to beg for a drink on the side. Pinky drained another vodka martini and said, "Don’t worry, Sweetie. In Europe, you can drink as much as you want."
My grandmother, looked over the top of her glasses and said, "Or as much as you can handle."
Lunch went fast and the necessary details were coming together. We were going to leave in one week, Pinky had already made a call to expedite my passport, and I didn’t ask how she did it. We would be flying into Copenhagen and using that as our base of operations. During our list making, my Grandmother looked at me and said, "Once we start on the trip, call me Elinor instead of Grandma or Grandmother. We don’t need to waste time with cutesy little stories about you growing up."
"I don’t think I have any cutesy stories," I said.
"You see, it is already working."
As lunch went on, it was clear that these two broads knew a lot of people. I learned that both of these women had spent significant time in Europe before, during and after World War Two and a lot of their friends and accomplices were still active throughout the continent. I was wondering how all this stuff could have escaped me as I was growing up. Grandma seemingly was around during my childhood and it was apparent that she was making these jaunts well before I was born. All these years, I assumed my Grandmother was at home, crocheting doilies instead of drinking and carousing her way across Europe six months out of the year. Every time a potential issue came up, one of the two would assure the other one that she knew someone at the hotel, embassy or police station to resolve whatever consequence would get in our way. I hadn’t asked why she invited me because it appeared that Pinky and her did most of their traveling as a pair, but I was grateful for the opportunity to accompany these two. Evidentially, she left Grandpa at home to tend to his business and everyone was fine: she always came back and he always was there. Everyone seemed happy so there was no sense trying to make this too difficult. Their dialogue read like a spy novel with names, organizations and memories appearing at every turn.
I wanted to ask them both silly questions about how they knew someone but I concentrated on their discussion so not to miss anything important. In the middle of the town I had lived in all my life, sat before me two women that were showing me a side of their personality that one week ago I would not of believe existed. People walked by the table and saw a charming scene of two elderly women and a gawky young man. They had no idea that the topics of conversation were ranging from casinos we would stay at for free because Pinky slept with the owner in 1945, 1965, 1985 and I think she even mentioned 1995. Or that Grandma’s best friend (other than Pinky, of course) was a retired hooker that married a local magistrate who ran the greater parts of Lisbon. I sat there and realized that no one in the family knew because the members of the family were only concerned with their own lives. The next topic was likely going to be their years of service in the Mafia, their anniversary in the Masad or running guns for the French underground but thankfully, the stories changed. I honestly don’t think I could have absorbed any more new information.
When lunch ended, they both looked at me and asked if I had any questions.
I said, "No, let’s go."
They both laughed and we left.
Mom was extremely curious about the plans but I was under strict orders not to give a lot of detail. She walked into my room and started snooping around as I packed.
"You aren’t packing much," she finally said to me.
"I know, Grandma told me to pack light."
"You have to get a passport."
"Pinky is taking care of it."
"I bet Mom is bringing you to all those horrible places she frequented during the war."
I said nothing. Grandma was pretty sure that I would be interrogated and had prepared me for this psychological line of questioning. I was wondering how a free spirit of a woman could have completely escaped me throughout my life and how my mother was completely different than my Grandmother. As I listened and Mom talked, she was becoming more and more animated about this whole thing and I thought it was best not to give her anything more to get excited about. There was enough on the table.
"You know, Mom is getting up there in age. You will have to make sure she takes care of herself."
I laughed quietly and wondered how I could explain to my mother that her mother had three or four belts at lunch and was in complete control of her faculties. The woman my mother was worried about knew retired hookers, former guerillas and raconteurs and likely had memories that would amaze sailors. As the time went on, it was apparent that Mom had absolutely no idea was going on so I took the high road and hugged her just to conclude the conversation.
"Don’t worry, Mom." I will keep an eye on her and Pinky. We’ll be fine."
We hugged again and she left the room. I took that opportunity to quickly inventory my stuff and make a list of the things I needed for the trip. Pinky and Grandma was very clear about packing only a few interchangeable items and I took her advice seriously. I knew I had to purchase a few items and concentrated on khaki, white and black colors so things would always match without wasting time. I needed some comfortable shoes and had less than a week to break them in so I had to get shopping. In this medium carry bag, I had to get a wardrobe for six months, a small dopp kit and everything else I wished to bring along without relying on other people. I knew that I would likely have to carry Grandma and Pinky’s bags, so I didn’t want to burden the group by overpacking. Also, I felt that if I needed something, I could always get it there. There was no sense making my second house too big.
The next day, I found a wonderful pair of shoes. They were dark enough to wear with anything and they were constructed to be excellent walking shoes with strong support. I picked up several white cotton shirts and new underwear and I knew I was done shopping. I packed my bag several ways until I got the optimum configuration. I kept throwing things out when I realized that I was just packing the items because I thought I might need them. I kept only things that I knew I would need and I was full of excitement because I had followed instructions and they both would be proud. I was determined not to be a burden on them but to surprise them with my innovation, creativity and ability to positively add to the adventure.
The week went quickly as I attended to my personal effects. I had to quit my job, say goodbye to my friend’s three months earlier than planned and started folding my life up into boxes for review in the future. I realized that I was the first one in my class to leave town and that the scene of all of us dissipating across the football field on graduation night was evolving with me, taking all my worldly possessions, and wandering down the road. It was a freaky realization and my self-imposed celebrity was giving me enough to think about without claiming the crown as "First One Out Of Town." There was going to be no party for my departure because it was all happening so fast. People who I intended to say goodbye to prior to my leaving would no doubt slip through the cracks. This momentum provided me with a good life lesson: things don’t always go as you plan. The trip combined with the volatile nature of my graduating class to make me grow up a lot faster than I ever thought necessary.
My folks and siblings stayed at a distance during the week. My older brothers and sisters were curious why they had never received the invitation from Grandma and my younger siblings had no interest in the events that were happening nearby. They were pre-occupied with driver’s licenses and affairs of the heart and my absence just meant more room and more food for them. They would miss me but not as much as they should but far more than I deserved. I wasn’t resentful or feeling left out but rather excited about my first bona fide adventure. We continued to do family things and the pace of the house was basically the same it was prior to graduation. The trip was looming as usual but I felt that my constant references to my upcoming adventure was not polite so I left the topic in my back pocket and only brought it out when asked a specific question.
The extra time I had, which was minimal, was used to learn about the areas we were going to experience. The town of Copenhagen was legendary for its bawdy nightlight and the wide-open tolerance for drugs and alcohol. The town had hash bars, a huge red-light district and prostitutes literally sitting in their living room windows and conducting trade. The pervasive nature of the seedier parts of the city didn’t do too much for me because it was so big and so massive that it overwhelmed me. If I had seen a fraction of this instead, I would have jumped right in with both enthusiasm and curiosity. I was curious if Grandma decided on Copenhagen with the intention of neutralizing the allure of all these taboo subjects. I made a mental note to ask her sometime but the momentum of the trip was making mental notes few and far between. I was completely psyched out the trip but needed to keep a cool exterior to my friends and family. If they had seen all the times my jaw had dropped in the last week, all my efforts of maintaining some level of coolness would have been wasted.
The day to go to the airport was upon me. Promptly at eleven in the morning, Grandma and Pinky showed up at the door to gather me up. They both went to my mother first and each of them hugged her like old ladies usually hug. But by this time, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had tried to pick her pocket. Mom melted into them and whispered for them to keep me safe and both of them cooed in response that they would not take their collective eyes off me. That didn’t make me feel any better but Mom seemed to calm down and allow this adventure to continue. I had my single bag at the door and Pinky winked at me to reassure me that I had done an admirable job. She handed me an envelope with my passport and told me everything was set. I kept wondering which senior State Department official or Ambassador Pinky slept with during the war to make expedite that passport but I decided to stop thinking and start heading for the door.
We got into the taxi and took off to the airport. The ladies were visibly growing younger and their fragility was being replaced with rosy cheeks and bright eyes. They were hitting the road and seeing the sights, just like they have been doing for years. They both had relaxed looks for professional travelers, not fretting the small stuff, just digging the adventure and allowing the details to fall in place by themselves. We got to the airport; Grandma whistled and waved a skycap over. She slipped him a ten spot for the three bags, a nice tip, and said, "Get these to Copenhagen, captain" and started walking into the airport. The skycap smiled, pocketed the ten and slipped her three claim tickets without breaking her stride. Pinky was right behind her with a small carry on and the two walked into the airport with an elegant grace. As I watched them enter the airport, there were two seasoned world travelers with no fear of what lie ahead. As best as I could determine, their lives were full of experiences and adventures which were nicely balanced with the normal, mundane aspects of life. Each portion of their lives did not impose anything dramatic on the other side and they had found a gentle balance of home and away, as well as past and future, and they both enjoyed immensely the passage of time.
We got to the check-in and sailed through the procedures and wandered down the corridor. I was trying to match their coolness but it was difficult. I had never been on an airplane before, much less going almost halfway around the world. My adrenaline was pumping but I used the two ladies as gauges and maintained a pained but casual walk slightly behind them. I was going away for at least six months and I had no idea what I would be like when I returned. In fact, my evolution was likely be so dramatic that my old demeanor and personality was basically left on that football field, surrounded by rented gowns, cameras and the shades of purple. I was going to come back some day but as someone altered. The degree of my evolution was unknown, which made everything going forward hypothetical and thus, a waste of good brainpower.
Our plane was not full so seating was almost at our option. If desired, we could have all have our own rows in order to stretch out across seats and sleep. I had no intention of sleeping at anytime during the trip, as the world lay before me with absolute no boundaries. Grandma and Pinky, God love them, were winding down their adventurous lifestyle. They were both in great shape and certainly had a few trips left in them but at best, you could count them all on one hand. I, on the other hand, was literally beginning a journey that realistically had no end in my eyes. Perhaps it wasn’t my place to estimate the ladies’ strength and capacity to explore, just as the day comes when my grandson or granddaughter ponders my limitations. Again, the hypothetical lost out to the actual and my energies and attention became re-focused on what was important: now. We all sat together and we held each other’s hand when the plane became airborne. The sensation was incredible and I appreciated the two veterans consoling me as best they could. The plane was gaining speed and the distance between me and that football field was growing exponentially. This moment is one of those that defines a person and I was making sure my eyes were wide open and ready for whatever was coming around the corner.
Grandma smiled and said, "A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi."
When people quoted Latin, I become intimidated because I never understood what people meant. They should just say what they wanted to say in English and stop the highbrow tricks of using odd languages for effect. So, I asked Grandma what that Latin phrase meant and she smiled again and said, "You’ll figure it out, sweetie. Let’s have a drink. And if asked for identification, use your passport. Pinky made you twenty-one."
I smiled and said, "That is a damn good idea, Elinor. Now tell me a bit about these mermaids."
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