A violinist on a street in Prague, where thousands of Czechs gathered on Friday for the funeral for former President Vaclav Havel.
We’re having coffee at home this morning.
The house is quiet and the decorations from last weekends annual holiday bash are still up, waiting for the arrival of Leigh and Candy. The grandkids and their parents must juggle grandparents and this year it is the turn of the in-laws.
Tomorrow morning’s tradition is a breakfast of scrambled eggs, the best bacon (three rashers per person), Anne’s sticky buns, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee. When the entire family is together breakfast is preceded by stocking presents and followed by the major presents, which purposefully frustrates the youngest ones. It is an important lesson in deferred gratification.
With just the four of us, this year will be calmer.
This morning I have been reading about the funeral of the poet and Czech leader, Vaclav Havel.
In 1968 I was twenty years old. I spent the summer budget traveling for four months across Europe. In late July I found myself in Sofia, Bulgaria drinking beer with left-wing students from the U.S., western and eastern Europe. Our beer drinking group included young communists from Czechoslovakia.
It was Prague Spring.
Czechoslovakia was attempting to take a slightly different path than their superpower patron, the Soviet Union. My beer drinking comrades were enthusiastic supporters of their president, Alexander Dubcek, who argued for a socialism with a human face. We argued and joked and after more beers we sang some songs. And after several more beers we raised our mugs with chants of, “Dubcek, Dubcek!”
We exchanged addresses and I promised that when I got to Prague I would look them up. We shook hands and exchanged hugs.
Just a few weeks later, Soviet troops entered Prague and deposed Dubcek, ending Prague Spring as well as my travel plans to Czechoslovakia.
Out of that movement came Vaclav Havel and 23 years later, the end of Soviet empire.
I still imagine my Czech friends as they were then: young and hopeful and slightly tipsy.