Chapter Two Thousand Sixty-One
15th May 1971
Visiting his mother on Saturday afternoons since Nina had been born was something that Ben did to keep the peace even if Kiki always found some excuse not to come. She had no objections and Nadine, Ben’s mother, always was delighted to see Nina.
“Kiki sends her regards” Ben said, “But she is arranging for work to be done on the Meta today.”
“You don’t need to make excuses for her Benjamin” Nadine replied as she lifted Nina from the carrier and cradled Nina in her arms, “I know that there are a lot of things she would sooner do before coming here.”
“Well, she does love that boat” Ben said a bit awkwardly.
“You remember your Oma, yes” Nadine said to Nina pointedly ignoring Ben. “I perfectly understand the reasons why your Momma loves to escape the pressures of her life on a boat when she can because that is her thing. Just like your Poppa flies his jet plane.”
“That is not quite the same thing” Ben said, “A Motor Barge like the Meta has a ninety-four-kilowatt diesel engine pushing thirty odd tons of boat. She was never intended to set any speed records. And I’ve never seen you with anything like that.”
“You are sitting in the middle of it” Nadine replied, as if that were something which Ben was supposed to have known.
Looking around the parlor, Ben wondered what she was getting at.
“This house was built to order” Nadine said, “At the time it was built, the University was offering incentives for Professors like your father to move here and work on the Humboldt Campus. This house was built exactly how I wanted it. The neighbors have left a bit to be desired at times, but things have worked out well for us.”
Ben had realized long ago that his mother saw things in term of pluses and minuses. Living in this house and his father’s Professorship were in the plus column, especially if this house was as his mother described it. Living across the alley from Katherine von Mischner and having Kiki catch Ben’s eye were probably in the minus column. Her first granddaughter, Nina seemed to have balanced all that at out to a degree.
“I didn’t know that” Ben replied.
“There are a lot of things like that” Nadine said, “You are like your father in that regard, he doesn’t always pay attention until it gets directly pointed out to him. Albert thought that I would just be setting up the interior, not working with the Architect. Now, what is Kristina really doing today.”
“She is at a boatyard getting an appraisal on having the electrical and water systems of the Meta updated as well as having some new items installed, air conditioning, a proper refrigerator, solar panels, and navigation radar. She thinks they would be useful if we are taking this extended holiday that she wants to take this summer.”
“Just what does she have in mind?”
“A grand tour of the canals of Europe” Ben replied, “In July and August.”
“I think that sounds like a wonderful idea” Nadine said as she rocked Nina who was enraptured with her earrings, something that Ben knew might end badly. “While this one is still little you ought to do that sort of thing every chance you get.”
Ben was surprised his mother said that. He also knew that Kiki had more than one reason for wanting to take this holiday. Over the week that they had spent with the Royal Flotilla several issues had revealed themselves. Ben and Kiki had shared the master’s cabin with Nina. That would have been fine except Kiki had her three-man security detail, Fianna Dunn, one of Nina’s Nannies, Steffi Bader, Kiki’s Personal Secretary along. There had also been a Pilot from Kaiserliche Marine aboard so that Kiki didn’t have to take on that role by herself.
That had made for a crowded journey on a boat the size of the Meta and had severely taxed the systems that Kiki was having upgraded, it had only worked because the bunk bed arrangement in the forward cabin. Twenty meters in length and four and a quarter in width seemed like a lot until there were eight people, a baby, and a dog aboard. As much as Kiki hated to admit it, she was probably going to have to get a bigger boat in the near future.
The difficulty with that was that Kiki had explored the history of Meta and as Ben discovered, it went back further and was far more interesting than he had realized. Originally constructed in Hamburg 1910, the Meta had been built to haul cargo. Where the galley, saloon, bathroom, and forward cabin now were, had been an open topped hold. The aft cabin and the wheelhouse were part of the original design, which was a surprising detail. Kiki had documents detailing that and photographs of the Meta as she had originally appeared. Including one which showed the forward area loaded down with bags of what were probably grain as the barge was entering one of the locks of the old Ludwig Canal, near the area where Kiki was talking about going this summer on the recently completed Albrecht Canal that had replaced it.
According to Kiki, the Meta had been sold off after she was no longer competitive as a cargo barge in 1947 and rebuilt to convert her to her present use. It occurred to Ben that would be the issue with any new boat, the lack of history. It needed to be like the house he was presently sitting in, built exactly how Kiki wanted it so that she could create some history of her own.