So I did it. I finally booked a flight home to see mum in Dorset and sisters in London in July. I’d watched the airline prices bounce around before pouncing on a good deal.
I can’t wait. Eric, my sister-in-law and the kid’s Nana are so brilliant, taking care of Alex and Sophie for a week. The kids and I miss each other, hard, but they know mummy comes home with a suitcase wedged with Marks and Sparks clothes and typically British trinkets, and then my absence is completely forgotten in the fervor of being reunited and presents being ravaged into.
The reason for this impromptu trip is the birth of my first little niece. I’m an Aunty for the first time! As if that weren’t emotional leverage enough, mum and big sisters, both rather unexpectedly, decided to adopt sibling cocker-poo pups. Sophie spent an evening with me trawling through dog name websites and from the hundred or so options we sent mum, she decided on Bonnie. It reminded her of some of her happiest days, living on the outskirts of Glasgow with dad in a wee bungalow before my time.
Jo’s dog is called Lola. The only distinction between the two black pups is mum’s has a white mark under her chin which mum proudly refers to as her ‘tuxedo.’
So I’ll be joyously surrounded by all this welcome birth, after our family has experienced so much death. Eric and I were Time-hopping through our wedding photos the other day. Six of the gleaming faces, cheersing glasses, laughing on the dance floor and tucking into the buffet, are now heavenward. Including dad.
Last time I went back to England was of course for his funeral. Living in Florida I often feel so detached from him. He was never well enough to visit our first bought home here. When I walk through the front thatched door in Dorset, I’m hit with the energy of dad. I expect him to call out, as he did, “Wetty, is that you?” from his recliner in the living room, after being sat there for hours, scanning my flight journey through the wonder of his beloved IPad and calculating my arrival time. (I’ll not explain why he called me Wetty:-)
Dad’s beloved little sister visited the house for the first time since dad’s death recently. Driving down from Gloucestershire she asked Uncle John to stop at pub so she might fortify herself with a dry white wine or three before entering into dad-land. She was quite tiddled when I got an impromptu Facetime a few hours later. It was just lovely to see mum belly laugh at her ever eccentric sister-in-law, who we all adore so very much.
It’ll be a saturation of the senses, but one I’m ready for. To mingle amongst so many ripe memories of dad; the kitchen range which he so diligently scraped cleaned, his spot at the head of the kitchen table, which no one can bring themselves to inherit, his side of the bed, perhaps still containing his sensible bits and bobs in the nightstand.
Bonnie’ll be a distraction from the swelling sadness the trip will surely contain. And of course my lovely mum, with her trademark brisk nature, ever the optimist, even amongst her can’t-believe-he’s-gone-grief.
People often ask if I get homesick, living in the States. I do, a little. But I feel I maintain the parts of Britain I miss, and allow other bits to fade away. For instance, I watch British TV. I also buy a lot of the kids’ clothes, and mine, on trips home or online. A handful of my friends here are British and we often, over tea, hark back with a warm nostalgia over how things are done back home. I have my fixes, I stay in the loop.
My family is stretched out across England, being inherently nomadic and independent so there is not a family hub central, which makes my jaunt across the Atlantic slightly more acceptable. We are close emotionally but rarely see one another. Given we’re all so remarkably different in our philosophies, lifestyles and ideologies it works for us.
When we get together, its usually for a celebratory reason and we have a riotous time. I’d rather that than living down the street and griping at one another, daily.
I think I’m fully prepared for my half British children to tell me, “mom, I want to live in En-ger-land.” It may perhaps come when they reach, 18, and realize British children get slightly more freedom at this age, legally supping ale in their local.
That’ll perhaps be my hubby-excuse to see if we can’t buy a small bolt-hold in Bath, my birthplace. The dream is-if we could finance the thing- to have a wee flat in Bath city center, where we’d have no need to invest in car with cultural fixes at every walking turn-the theatre, artisan shops, museums, cathedral, tearooms.
But we’ll see. Perhaps- due to my sometimes helicopter parenting-they’ll loathe leaving our city limits. I hope not though. I hope they’ll be pining for adventure and a back-packed gap-year.
Families are funny things, aren’t they?! I find every family delightedly strange and quirky, and that’s their rare beauty. Dad was arguably our most eccentric member. I’ve learned, through dad’s death, to relish the bits that drive you half insane. Those are the bits you’ll look back on and miss the most when they’re gone, the irreplaceable, even infuriating aspects.
Relish away, my friend.