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The Perfect Picture

The photo we took on our trip to Romania was supposed to be for our memory collection. In truth, it belonged to someone else.

Dracula's castle

My husband, Jim, and I take pictures of everything when we go on vacation. People, landmarks, shop windows, you name it. So, on our trip to Romania last year, our camera was at the ready when our motor coach tour group arrived at Count Dracula’s castle.

The coach let us off at the bottom of a steep hill where a number of local artisans had set up booths. One sold exquisite crocheted and embroidered fabrics.

“We’ll stop on the way back and buy some of your pieces,” Jim said to the couple who ran the booth. They smiled and shook their heads, as if to say, “We won’t hold our breaths.”

We hiked up the hill to the castle, posed for pictures and headed back. Much to the surprise of the couple, we stopped at their booth as promised and bought several keepsakes. As the man wrapped our gifts, Jim lifted his camera. “May I take your photo?” he asked. The man nodded. Snap!

Then the man asked, in broken English, if we could mail him a copy. “Of course,” I said. I handed him my travel diary and pen. He wrote his name and address.

The motor coach started up. The bus was about to leave. I took back the diary and we dashed off. I never gave it a look till the next day, on a boat cruise on the Danube, bound for Budapest. I opened it up and landed on the page where the man had scribbled his name and address.

To my disappointment, his writing was illegible. How would we ever mail him the photo?

Back home, I packed the diary away. For a year it remained in a closet—till friends called to tell us they were about to take the same trip to Romania. It’s a sign, I thought. I made a copy of the photo and made them promise to hand-deliver it to the artisans.

When our friends reached Dracula’s castle, however, the couple were nowhere to be found. They showed the photo at every booth. Finally, one man pointed to an old woman at a stand across the street.

“Do you know these people?” my friends asked.

The woman took the photo, looked at it and began to weep. “My son!”

She thanked our friends profusely. Her son had died recently, she told them, and she had little to remember him by. Not even one photograph.

Until now.

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