I packed, unpacked, and packed again. I decided, that as I was not going to have quite as much as a usual December departure, I would be able to take a few more items of clothing. However, despite being under the impression that I was not bringing home as much as usual, it was short lived. I did manage to fit in one or two more items of my clothing.
Dana and I met Samantha and Edward at the airport, just after 1:30 on Friday afternoon. We bid our husband's farewell, and my daughter and I stood in the short queue to go through security. The gentleman at the desk was as jolly as the gentleman who purportedly travels the world on Christmas Eve, and waved us through.
At the desk in the lounge, one of the two ladies took our boarding passes, to check us in. As she looked at Samantha's, she accidentally ripped it in half. She was rather apologetic. Samantha laughed, and assured her it was not a problem. She had a spare one. "Really? Why?" asked the representative. Samantha, as quick as a flash, said, "In case someone rips it in half!" The second lady saw the humour and started to laugh, as did we. After the initial shock, the second lady laughed too. We sat in the lounge for about half an hour, and then made our way to the gate, where the passengers were already boarding. I took my seat, after heaving my heavy 'carry on' into the overhead bin, and Samantha headed down the aisle to her chair. I took out my bag containing my wool, and started to crochet. At first, I thought the altercation was playful, but the fracas got worse, and I realised this was not a joke. A young girl stood stood in the aisle and tried to placate the screaming passenger, but it was not to be. Eventually, the steward led the young girl off the plane. I called Samantha who explained that the young girl had stopped to say hello to an old friend, whom she noticed sitting on the plane. Mr X, the unruly passenger, had suggested that she move along as she was holding up the boarding process. Quietly, and rather provokingly, she spoke to him and basically told him that she was not saying 'hello' to him. She managed to antagonize Mr X to such a degree that he started to shout. I had not realised. However, Mr X did not quit. He then suggested that Ms Y's long lost friend, continue the argument once they both reach Houston and had deplaned. This was rather unnerving to the rest of the passengers. Mr X continued to be antagonized, and started to cause a scene. He was, thankfully, escorted off the plane. The front of plane passengers applauded the security agent. Unfortunately, the lady who caused the scene, was smiling gleefully, and sitting in her seat when we took off.
Houston was busy. Santa Claus walked boldly down the concorse, in his full dress, and pulling his 'overnight' bag. After making a couple of purchases, we went into the lounge for what was a long, and then longer than anticipated wait. Our flight was delayed as the inbound flight arrived late. However, the tail wind promised us an on time landing. It has been a long tine since Samantha and I have travelled Trans-Atlantic together, and we were sitting next to each other in the front section. We gave our menu selections, settled back into our seats, and once we took off, we started to play with the seats. Giggling like a couple of school girls, we introduced ourselves, and pretended we were strangers. Why? Because we are a mother and daughter who have a very similar, somewhat infantile sense of humour.
The flight was uneventful. We ate well, and even managed to sleep after some more giggles, which reminded me of when Samantha had some friends for a sleepover when she was quite young. The difference was (apart from us being 38,000 feet in the air) that this time, I was joining in!
Coming off the plane, we went through immigration and then to collect our bags. Although I had thought I remembered, I went up and down in the lift three times. Zero, level zero, how difficult is that to remember! The first bus was full, but another arrived quite quickly. We completed the paperwork swiftly, and went to collect the car. It was full of scratches, and as I was inspecting it, before leaving, I noticed it was a diesel engine vehicle. I was not happy, and made my way back inside. Just as I was about to be helped, I received a call from Samantha. "It's the car next to it!" Back I ran, and marked out a new sheet of 'dents'. We exited the parking lot, and made our way to the motorway.
The slip road was blocked. The motorway was blocked. People started to back up on the slip road, and I decided that as everyone else was doing it, I would do the same. We saw that the traffic on the M25, was at a standstill. It was backed up for what looked like miles, and was not moving an inch.
Being an ex-London licensed cabbie, and remembering the route taken from home (my parents' home) before the motorway existed, I thought I knew which way to go and headed towards the A30. Elise called to see how long we were going to be, and Samantha explained the predicament. My sister was rather concerned, and called her significant other, who in turn called us back, and tried to help with the route. He sent us back to the airport and gave us an alternative route. However, once back at the airport, Samantha called her father, a current licensed cabbie, and he talked us along as I was driving. "Turn on to the A30", he said. Had I been on my own, I would have not called anyone and gone with my instincts. After a while, we saw the signs to Harrow, and I was very happy. Apparently, David, my sister's significant other, was concerned that I would take the road into central London, and be caught up in more Christmas Eve traffic. However, he was unaware that I had done the trip many times before and knew exactly where to exit. Each town we went to held another story. "Did I ever tell you....?" I said to Samantha as we drove into another area. "But I am sure it will be a beautiful story". We passed the hospital where Richard was born, the centre where my cousin got married, the swimming pool where I learned to swim, and several other notable places from my past.
We finally arrived at my mums, a little after four, having spent two and a half hours in the car. Apparently, had we stayed on the slip road and entered the motorway, we would have arrived much later. Richard and Ollie turned up shortly after we arrived, and Ollie had just woken from a nap. However, it did not take long to realise that 'grandma in the phone' was now out of the phone, and ready to play face to face. Before he left, I had to give him a 'high five' on both hands, and he came back inside for a second kiss goodbye. What more could a grandma ask for.
Sausage and mash was for dinner, and I enjoyed every mouthful. This year's Christmas feast was not going to be prepared completely in the kitchen of the matriarch; it was going to be a joint effort! It was quite a relief not to have to peel in excess of two bags of potatoes, and endure the stress of an octogenarian. Elise came first with the Brussel sprouts and chestnuts, and of course the famous pavlova. Emma brought several varieties of pigs in blankets, and Steph brought a large pot of baked potatoes. Mum, who had been instructed to only cook the turkey, had several diversifications on the meaning of the word 'only'. The word 'no' also seems to be different in my mother's language to those of her family. Parsnips, swede and carrots, two types of stuffing (dressing), bread sauce, mixed vegetables and Yorkshire pudding, were all explained as 'nothing'. The word 'nothing' in my mother's language is also different to that in the rest of her family!
However, despite the excess of work mum had taken upon herself, it was a lot less fraughtful than last year. Elise and I insisted that she go inside and stay out of the kitchen. We sent her, with the turkey, into the dining room, and warned her that she must not come back until after dinner. She tried to protest, but we were firm. In fact, I don't think I have ever been so firm with my mother, so much so that my sister stood back and asked where I had taken my 'bossy' lessons!
Dinner was wonderful, and everything was as wonderful as it had been many times before. We banned her again from the kitchen and sent her back to the dining room with the desserts. She was not happy but obeyed the commands of her daughters, and told us that although she would have loved to have been part of it, she enjoyed hearing the bouts of hysterical laughter coming from the kitchen.
Everyone left before six. It was unusual, but with small children in the form of great grand kids, times have changed, and the memories of when her own grandchildren were small came flooding back, and it was as if we were starting again. Another generation, another set of boundaries.
I went for a walk after everyone had gone, and then returned to vacuum. It had been a lovely day. Ollie was delighted with his presents, and was very well behaved. I received a present from my son in law!
We are heading to 2017 very quickly. I can do no more than ask that each and every one of my readers have a blessed, and healthy new year and beyond. Next year I will start again, with ..... another story!