Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Journey We Take Together -- Part Four

Note: Susan Prisant is pictured at right in her front garden in Caesarea, Israel, where she lived with her husband, Sandy, some years back. The couple also lived in Barcelona and London and now make their home in Florida.

By Susan Prisant

Finally married, even if it took three times. From the beginning, it was clear our lives would not be taking a normal path.

Sandy went off to The Daily Cardinal everyday. Wisconsin’s college newspaper competed with Madison’s two dailies and got 20,000 regular readers. As sports editor and a member of the editorial board, The Cardinal left him no time to attend classes, nor energy to care about them.

That didn't stop him from acing tests, however. The night before an exam, he simply read the course syllabus and managed to graduate with honors.

Meanwhile, I was out to change the world, or at least a small part of it. I took a job teaching wayward girls how not to be wayward.

Almost from the beginning, we fell into a tempo that made travel and discovery a priority. So it was that in less than two years, in an effort to combine study with real work, we relocated to New York. We’ve since moved more than 25 times. We have always been free spirits with tremendous confidence.

In those years, “home” was never our postal address. It was the family “compound” in Kings Point, where Sandy’s father had designed a modern house with a swimming pool that came into the living room. There was a big garden where we played badminton, overlooking Long Island Sound. We took long walks along the beach with the dogs. It could have been a scene out of Ralph Lauren.

Friends were always welcome. It felt like everybody’s home.

Someone was usually playing the piano, others were singing along. And food came through the kitchen’s swinging doors, non-stop.

My parents became best of friends with the Prisants. The bigger family now became inseparable.

I gave up saving wayward girls and switched to saving Russian Jews. I managed to get in on the last major chapter of a centuries-old struggle. Sandy became a journalist at United Press International, covering his two favorite subjects---politics and sports. On occasion he became almost a little boy again, sitting in the press box with the guys and rooting, not writing.

Then one day, something happened -- it was one of those events that came out of left field to change people’s lives.

Sandy loved the writing, but one day he overhead a colleague say that if he’d had a child and made $2 less per week, he’d be eligible for welfare.

It was the first in a series of realizations that led Sandy out of journalism and eventually into a job in a Park Avenue ad agency.

Meanwhile, we were hellbent on our next adventure. Still in our early 20s, we wanted to discover whether things were different beyond America’s borders. We quickly learned that they were. We organized the trip around just two things. Transportation by land and by sea. The grand old cruise ships crossing the Atlantic were in their final hours. We would not be beaten by that clock. We promptly booked a crossing from New York to Southampton on the SS United States— the ship's very last crossing. We bought an open return from Le Havre to New York on the SS France.

By land, we ordered a five-speed MG convertible to be picked up in London. The ship had decided our timing; the car dictated our route, launching us from the UK.

We had driven only 50 feet out of the London parking lot, and we were stopped at a red light. Sandy was rolling an unlit cigar around in his mouth. A Rolls Royce pulled up next to us. The window next to Sandy rolled down; the driver casually opened his lighter and said, in the Queen’s English, “can I offer you a light?”

Stay tuned for more adventures with Susan and Sandy Prisant, writers whose intertwined stories are appearing in serial format here on MyStoryLives! Part Three of Susan Prisant's series, "The Journey We Take Together," -- the story of the couple's adventures together (starting with their elopement at age 18) ran on July 7, 2011. Sandy's on-going series -- "The Journey We Take Alone?" -- tells the story of his struggle to survive a very difficult kidney disorder that he's had since birth. Part Eleven in that series ran on July 17, 2011.

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