My expatriate parents enjoyed the luxury of ocean liner travel when my father was stationed in 20th Century China before World War II. They dined at the Captain’s table and danced the night away under the stars. They strolled around the deck until the wind came up and the waves got choppy. Then they relaxed in their deck chairs, bundled up in steamer blankets, until the stewards came around at Tiffin with steaming cups of bouillon to warm their cores.
Still, the little ones needed tending. Even though they ate in the children’ dining room and enjoyed staff-supervised activities in the children’s playroom, their amahs had been left behind in the Far East.
Hazel Rounds brought her baby from Shanghai to San Francisco. The other mothers warned her, “Whatever you do, don’t bathe the baby in tap water.”
Soaking in a hot tub was not one of the luxuries of shipboard travel. Fresh water was for drinking —salt water for bathing. Learning that salt water would not be good for baby’s tender skin, Hazel bathed her baby in olive oil.
This story became my father-in-law’s favorite.
My husband spent a post-graduate high school year at the exclusive prep school, Phillips Exeter Academy. The admissions interview with Mr. Rounds did not seem to be going well.
“Say, are you related to Hazel Rounds?” my father-in-law suddenly interrupted.
“She’s my cousin.”
Pop told him the story of the ocean crossing with the baby. “The only problem,” he concluded, “Was when they got to San Francisco, the baby smelled rancid.”
Pop always claimed that the rancid baby story got Mike into Exeter — a story that invariably got a rise out of his wife.