I was very lucky because the family I lived with had the means to open many doors in their country, giving me the best possible exposure and experiences. My Norwegian father was a doctor, who was quite successful. His wife often took my Norwegian sister and me into Oslo to shop and sightsee. She actually knitted a beautiful Norwegian sweater and hat for me as wonderful souvenirs. She took me into Oslo to pick out the pewter buttons she later sewed on. I adored the sweater and hat so much that I still have them.

On weekends, we spent time at their home on a small island in the southern part of Norway, where dusk settles somewhere around 1 o' clock in the morning. Those long days of sunshine allowed for lots of outdoor living. We often took boat rides, walked around the island, picked bluebells and put them in a flower press, and enjoyed all the beauty this wonderful place had to offer.

Toward the end of my stay, I reconnected with the other kids from our program and our teachers so we could all spend a couple of weeks traveling around Europe together. We toured Norway for a few more days before taking a ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen. Most of us were running very low on money, so we decided to pool our funds and voted between staying in the sleeping quarters on board the ship or eating. It was unanimous. We would eat. It was a relatively easy decision for a few of us, especially one of the girls from Kansas and me, who were petite and could pretty much curl up and sleep anywhere. In fact, she and I spotted a luggage rack above some of the seats on the boat that we figured we could easily squeeze into. We removed the bags that had been stored there and climbed in. Unfortunately, the sea got very rough that night and we got thrown right out onto the floor of the boat. This was my first experience with seasickness—one I will never forget. Everybody on board was so sick. If you weren't holding your head over the rail, you were holding on for dear life.

When we got to Copenhagen, we spent a week touring and seeing all of the sites before leaving for a week in Paris and then returning to the United States. When I arrived in New York, I remember sitting with my parents so I could tell them all about my wonderful experiences overseas. I shared how much I enjoyed exploring my Scandinavian heritage and how appreciative I was for the opportunity to live abroad. The Cuban missile crisis was fresh in my mind, as it had been less than a year since that threat was posed to our nation. As a young adult, I was well aware of those tense days. After spending three months out of the country, I told my parents I thought every teenager should have the opportunity to be an exchange student. If they did, I believed it would have a big impact on the younger generation's global outlook, and could result in less war. I was living in an era where war was happening all around us. Although I was just a little girl during the Korean War, I was old enough to be aware of Castro coming into power in Cuba and of the Bay of Pigs invasion. And I realized that we were still living in uncertain times. I followed current events closely and with great interest. I was too young to become an activist, but I wanted my parents to know that I was aware of what was happening. Like most parents, my mother and father did their best to shield me from the horrors of the world, but we were living in a time when they were hard to ignore. And to be frank, I didn't want to put my head in the sand. I was sitting in French class on November 22, 1963, when I heard the news. A friend of mine went running past the open door to my classroom. This was a girl who was usually very upbeat and funny, but she had just heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot, and was running down the hallways of our school screaming to let everyone know. We weren't sure if we should take her message seriously at first though. It only took a split second to realize that no one would say something so horrible in jest. Everything came to a stop. How could the president have been shot? I had never experienced anything like this before. I didn't know what to do. I, along with the rest of our class, was in a state of shock. There was a great heaviness throughout the school for the rest of the day, week, and for many months to come. Our country was crying. Every one of us was in tears. I'll never forget—we were supposed to put on a school play that weekend. Of course, we were taught that the show must go on. Although it seemed wrong on so many levels, my drama teacher reminded us that it was the first rule of the theater, so we all got into our costumes and were standing backstage when the school decided this was one time the show would not go on.
©Susan Lucci, All My Life, It Books, 2011


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