Denise and I made a “sentimental journey” to the city of Kenitra on Thursday. Kenitra is the first city we first live in when I was stationed at a Naval Communication Station in 1971. It is located only about twenty miles north of Rabat, and is also an Atlantic coastal city. Though we had not spent any time in the city since the mid-eighties, we knew it had experienced explosive growth. According to Wikipedia, its population in 1982 was 188,194 and in 2010 had increased to 931,027.
I heard the song Sentimental Journey, I think, when I was about seven years old and for some reason, it must have made an impression on me. My father took us to the high school graduation in the small town in southeast Alabama where we lived and the graduation class sang that song. (It was a very different era.) For seven years, my father had been both pastor of the local Baptist church and a full-time teacher at the school, but had given up the position at the school that year. Perhaps, that partially explains why he felt the family needed to be there.
The song, written in 1944, brought a lot of acclaim to Doris Day. The first few lines of the song include the reasons for making the sentimental journey. “Gonna set my heart at ease” and “to renew old memories” are two rationales listed. Both had some effect on our thinking.
I had mentioned in an earlier note that by nature, I am prone to nostalgia and dredging up memories provides a lot of pleasure. We thought we would enjoy seeing the buildings where we had lived, to walk by the places that often were part of our daily experience, and perhaps make some comparisons to what is and what was.
Part of our gypsy heritage is a substantial list of former addresses. A couple of blocks down the main boulevard leading up to the train station is the Studio Hotel. At the time it was a sort of extended stay hotel catering to naval personnel while they looked for a place to rent. Denise had to wait to leave the states until I secured at least temporary housing and had it approved by the command. The Studio Hotel met the standard and she arrived ten days later. We only lived there six weeks or so, since personnel left on a regular basis and freed up apartments. The Studio name has been changed, and no stars appear on the door, suggesting it probably would not be suitable now, even for us.
We continued down to 38 Avenue Hassan II where the apartment building is located in which we rented one-bedroom flat. It was quite small, but when you are able to move in one trip, on foot, all you own in two suitcases and a seabag, not much space is required. Within a few months my mother suggested that she might like to come for a visit, and with more contacts and an increased knowledge of the city, we began a search for a larger place. During the summer, a two-bedroom apartment became available, located directly across the hall from good friends we had made. We meandered by all those places and renewed a lot of memories, including the visit my mother and youngest brother made to see us in October of that year. Regrettably, like the hotel, the buildings would not be on our housing list now. Of course, they are forty years older, as are we. Comparing with complete objectivity, we are convinced we have aged better than they.
We passed a bakery shop and remembered the aroma of freshly baked croissants that wafted out onto the street. We walked through the central marchee, where wonderful fruits and vegetables were always available, plentiful, and inexpensive. The smell of the daily catch of fish and other seafood served as a reminder of Kenitra’s location on the coast and the nearby beach we sometimes visited. Denise’s favorite souvenir shop is gone now, but the Ambassade Restaurant where we had our last meal the night before we left is still in business, as is The Village, the site of our Christmas dinner the first time we were ever away from family on that special day. A lot of special events, good times, and unforgettable friends were remembered.
The other reason for such a journey, according to the song, proved more elusive for us to realize. For a number of years we have promised ourselves that we would spend more time in Morocco each year after we both retired. As of September 1 of last year, we had reached that objective. We hoped on this trip to determine where and when that might happen, and also come to a better interpretation of what exactly we might do to contribute in a positive way to the country and the people we know here. It would be nice to put our minds at ease about those difficult choices. Unfortunately, I am afraid those concerns have not been resolved. Although our hearts are not completely at ease, we are still convinced there is a place, and a time, and a way that we can serve others that at least would qualify us as acceptable outsiders.