Positive adventures abound. I learned to make perfect scones from a dear old Scottish WWII survivor named Auntie Johnnie, steak and kidney pie from my neighbor Kay near Bury St.Edmunds, to make Madeleines and Soupe au Pistou in Provence, have prepared leg of lamb in Julia Child’s ancient Le Cornue oven, enjoyed a romantic meal beside the night-sparkling Eiffel Tower, watched bulls run through the streets of St Remy de Provence, picked grapes with college friends during the vendage in Burgundy, and remember to always carry a shopping sack because groceries are not bagged for customers in European stores.
I watched my kids sleep between the fabric that covers a duvet rather than under the duvet, have made and sold mince pies at the Christmas market in Bury St. Edmunds to raise funds for abused children, taught the ladies of the Bury Methodist Church how to do needlepoint so we could make new collection bags for the church offering, herded sheep with a bell-ringing Suffolk shepherd, RIchard Seabrook, have eaten tiny roasted birds of unknown identity in someone’s home/restaurant in Italy. Ron and I hosted a Boston Tea Party for our friends in England in 1976, fed LDS missionary boys who knocked on our door while we were making fried chicken and brownies for that party, and hosted British guests for Thanksgiving meals that celebrated why our forebears left England 200 years before, the irony not lost on any of us during those meals. I made friends on a train trip to London with a lady who later rented us her big old Tudor house called Tudor Chimneys, a dream of a place to live in a village that utterly enchanted our entire family, even our parents and friends who came to visit, have waved to the Queen during Trooping of the Colors, and shouted to the horses to “move their bloomin’ selves” along during the Ascot races while decked out in my fancy Ascot chapeau.
I made life-long friends with people who gave me directions then invited me into their home for coffee, was moved to tears by the kindness of strangers in France on 9/11, by the friendships offered to our family during the almost five years we lived in England, by the men who telephoned from their favorite pub on the day of Ron’s funeral and together hoisted a pint in his memory.
My then eighteen year old grandson and I toured through Paris until he cried ‘uncle’ and said, “Gramms, I am tired”. Then he stealthily left the hotel after I thought we had gone to bed and spent most of the night out on the town. I watched Patty and Greg flourish in British schools, learn the names of all the architectural parts of English Cathedrals on our many outings together, read British road maps like pros when they were still in primary school, to this day, use their well-worn Michelin maps of Europe that they each carried on a driving trip through Europe in 1977, have seen both my kids read Chronicles of Narnia and JR Tolkien, and laugh at Monty Python jokes with complete understanding based on their experiences in England. Neither of them fear travel to any part of the world like I did when I left California for New Jersey. Both of them are fluent in other languages, are kind and helpful to foreign travelers in the United States. I feel fulfilled as a parent when I see their appreciation, knowledge and concern for people extending far beyond the confines of the United States.
Ron and I rested on a bench along the Forum in Rome when Wisteria blossoms were tumbling down the ancient remains. Whenever I catch the fragrance of that purple flower it transports me back to that sunny spring afternoon. We bought a chandelier in a “lampaderia” in Rome, laughing all the way on the flight back to England about the Italian term for “lamps are us” as we carried it on our laps. It hangs in my house in Arizona. We got the last room available in Madrid when we arrived without reservations….cockroaches shared the room with us. I have given a lecture at Leeds University, gone parasailing in Mexico, had tea with Lady Wedgwood (they lived in a neighboring village), and attended midnight Christmas-eve services in a cathedral where 500 candles were burning during the service. And after living in England all those years, I learned to brew a perfect pot of tea. And yes, Sara, I have driven those loopy curves through Les Alpilles…over and over and over again.
When I land in France and hear multiple languages all around as I move through customs, my traveling energy is sparked with an inexplicable adrenalin rush. Curiosity, a sense of adventure, interest in art, literature, history, music and the culture set my wheels in motion. I only stop because my body says Whoa! and that stopping is with great reluctance.
I have set an intention to do a sea change on this trip to France, to slow the pace, to savor the moment, to stop and soak in all that surrounds, listen and reflect and synthesize all these traveling adventures, then to write about it. Cannot wait to exit the plane in Nice and get this bright journey going. The next post will come from France…………