When Xander and Cece walked along the banks of the River Seine in Paris, they expected to see Bateau Mouche sailing past with tourists, perhaps the occasional duck, but never a message in a bottle. Yet that’s exactly what they found one warm summer day.
In August 2013, Bruce Turk traveled to France to study classical French comedy as part of a two-year project funded by The Fox Foundation and Theatre Communications Group. His wife Katie MacNichol (also an actor as well as a member of my writing group) and their two children joined him for a family vacation.
One afternoon they wandered the paved embankment of the Seine after eating a picnic lunch by the river. Xander spotted something in the water and ran closer to take a look. A soccer ball! Waterlogged and definitely the worse for wear, the ball floated tantalizingly close, but Katie refused to let him retrieve it.
That’s when he saw another bit of flotsam bobbing downstream, and said, “Look Papa, there’s a message in a bottle.” Bruce figured it was just garbage, but Xander insisted, “There really is!”
Bruce clambered down the steep bank to pluck their find from the water. Cece wanted to get it herself, but after she saw how difficult the climb was for her father admitted that she was glad she had not gone because, “Who wants to fall in?”
“Knowing Papa, he probably would fall in,” cracked Xander.
“We were hoping it would be something written by Vincent Van Gogh,” said Katie. However, the bottle was far too modern for that possibility so they decided to break it open on the spot. Bruce spread the letter on the pavement, and passersby crowded around to see it.
“I felt kind of cool,” confided Cece, “because people were like ‘Oh, this American family found a message in a bottle.'”
A torn sheet of notebook paper held three short messages, perhaps written in a waterside cafe or during a picnic by the river. Giddy with Paris as much as with the wine, Iheb, Olga and Adam had penned a love letter to the world.
Olga shared that she was still in awe of Paris on this, her second visit. “I’m sitting with my friends Iheb and Adam drinking wine next to the wine Sienes [sic]. I am backpacking Western Europe this month and my absolute favorite part has been meeting new people from all over the world. So, all I really have to say is be open-minded, be curious and travel, travel, travel.”
“Dear Etudient de vie (Student of life)” began Adam Easter, “The world is a fairytale. We need to find a way to experience and to be free.”
Whatever the literary merits of the message, Xander and Cece brought home a better souvenir than any t-shirt or Eiffel Tower miniature. They joined the centuries-old ranks of an elite group of people, the fortunate few who have found a message in a bottle.