Spring Break ’24 was just dreamy

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2024

By Steve Stricker

Over the past many years, I spent several quiet, peaceful, spring breaks on Iles d’ Renaud, a small private island in the Mediterranean owned by my distant relatives, after attending the Marseille, Grand Prix de France F-1 Race.

This year, wanting a change, I thought about going to Munster, Germany, home of my granddaddy Stricker, who immigrated through Ellis Island in the late 1800s to our small southern town of Charleston in Southern Missouri…but that didn’t feel right. 

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On my first trip to Scotland in September 2009, I drove my then Scottish fiancé and her mum to St. Andrews to see the town and especially, Old Course.  It was my inaugural long drive, “wrong” side of the road, steering, shifting with my left hand, but like that first deep breath of fragrant, heavy, magical Scottish air, I loved St. Andrews and driving felt totally comfortable.

A few days later, I drove the two of us to Edinburgh, and as we stepped into the Conan Doyle Pub (Sherlock Homes), my favorite pub anywhere, it felt very familiar. Steps away, was St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, where we attended Mass several times, met Monsignor Mike, who agreed to marry us, and where Sir Conan Doyle was a member.

We toured the “Royal Mile” from end to end – east was Edinburgh Castle, west was Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s palace, gift shop (where I now get my tea), and across from that was the Scottish Parliament.

In front of Parliament were wading pools. Legend had it that if one waded in one of these pools, they would return…I waded because I wanted to return to St. Andrews – and did.

Early one morning, sitting in the bay window of St. Andrews Russell Hotel where I was staying, I was having a very strong cup of coffee as we had done in 2009 – except I had a Guinness Extra Strout at that time.  Directly across the street was the North Sea; to the right was St. James Catholic Church; and left was the famous Old Course and Club House, all within easy walking distances.

The fairy tale engagement ended in 2011 by the grace of God; we were compatible, but totally “unyoked.” I vowed never again to be in that position and had not been out with a female since…13 years and was okay.

Suddenly there was a stir as an attractive middle-aged woman sat down at the table next to me.  “Good morning,” I said.  And she responded with a heavy accent, “Guten Morgen.”  She, in broken English, asked if I was an American. “Yes.”  She said she was from, “Germany,” staying in the same hotel, and asked me to please join her at her table.

Married at the time, many years ago she too had waded in that Parliament pool, had not been to St. Andrews, thus the trip. She lived in Hanover, Germany, which ironically was only 30 minutes from Munster, knew many “Strickers” there and was also a very strong Catholic.

For the next week we were inseparable, going to daily Mass at St. James, exploring St. Andrews, but we never kissed, just a wee hug as we said goodnight.   

The attraction to each other was strong, but our attraction to God was stronger, as it must be. She was beautiful, petite, intelligent and everything I wanted in a partner; she said the same about me.

That last evening over two bottles of Roederer Cristal champagne in the bay window, we made plans for her to come to Oxford within the next few months. Saying goodnight, our guards lowered, she pulled me close, tight, our heads moved forward at the same time, as our lips almost touched, I suddenly felt a heaviness in my chest! Was I having a heart attack?!  

No, maddeningly realized it was my cat Jag standing on my chest, telling me to get up…it was Monday, March 18, Ole Miss, Oxford spring break was over, and I woefully had only been dreaming….