The extra 'day off' on Monday had not particular significance to a woman who was, supposedly, on vacation!
After spending Sunday night dozing in front of the television, I felt somewhat revived! It had been a week since I had 'stayed in' and I was feeling the adrenaline slowly disappear. I awoke on Monday ready to face the world.
I met Sheri, as planned, at the Horse and Chains, a 17th century coaching inn, which is in Bushey. I marveled at the beautiful architecture, and the ingenuity of the buildings in Tudor England. It is amazing to think that five centuries ago, the plans for this building were to make it survive longer than those for my condo!
We drank coffee, I ate lunch, we drank tea, and we caught up on all that was important, and trivial. Four hours later, we reluctantly said cheerio, and went our separate ways. Although I have not known Sheri for as long a Lynda (through whom we met) or Lesley (whom I have known for 52 years!) we have known each other for over forty years, and we marveled at that, too! My wonderful day stayed wonderful, as I went from the pub to Richard. Ollie had enjoyed another busy day, and was eating his dinner when I arrived. He was also quite animated. I smiled and remembered the boundless energy his father had, when he was two, and three, and four, and so on!
Mum had prepared roast lamb, roast potatoes, and runner beans, which was being served up virtually as I arrived home. She had been concerned about my driving in the dark, icy night, but realised that although I have been absent for over twelve years, I had been a 'professional' driver for some of the time when I was in England, and this was still 'familiar turf'.
Another night dozing in front of the television was what I needed to set me up for a day out on Tuesday. The journey to Rose took a little under the hour, and we, again, enjoyed a few hours catching up with all things (we deemed to be) important, and trivial. We mused about the paths our lives had taken, and chatted about our grandsons, which caused us to smile as we realised we were now, to our kids, as our parents had been to us! The time flew too quickly, and all too soon we had to bid each other farewell, just as the sun was setting. I was due to go back to mum, then to meet Janice, Steph's mum, at a restaurant, but had received a message to say that Steph was unwell, and Janice had taken Ollie home with her to spend the night.
I arrived at Janice's house just before bath time. Ollie was a little bemused to have both grandmas in the same house and was unsure as to whether I should be allowed upstairs to the bathroom. However, he saw that this could be a good thing, and after playing in the water for a while, decided he would like us to watch 'Finding Nemo', with him. Janice's partner, arrived home from work, and Ollie seemed to derive a great deal of satisfaction just sitting with the 'oldies'.
Richard called me on Wednesday and asked if I would be able to help Steph with 'bath time', as she was still feeling a little under the weather. He then called again to ask if I could go earlier, perhaps after Ollie's nap. After lunch with mum, my niece Emma, and the gorgeous little poppy, (my great niece,) I went to Steph via the supermarket, where I picked up my 'going home' goodies. Despite promising myself that I will not be drawn into the 'I can't live without', phenomena, I usually fail miserably. To add insult to injury, Dana has now found out the joys of England, and has, after years of resistance, admitted that there are some things (and we are adjusting to enduring a few changes at a time) that are perhaps, (again not fully endorsing superiority,) better on the other side of the pond. Ribena, for example, the delicious blackcurrant cordial that he has never before tasted the like, is an essential! A box of Thornton's chocolates are missed if they are not produced from the case, like a rabbit from a magician's hat! Instant coffee, despite being produced by the Swiss, is so much better than the variety on sale in the national supermarkets. I have, however, denied myself the purchase of crisps. I did make a note that Sainsbury's does have an 'American' section, where Lucky Charms, Reeces (a few varieties) and Babe Ruth candy bars are on sale. However, I could not quite make out why anyone would spend five times as much on marshmallows, just because they are 'extra large'.
Hauling the one bought shopping bag to the car, and having departed with more cash than anticipated, but thankfully less than in previous years, (so my promise to myself was kept to a degree,) I drove to Richard's house. With nowhere to park, I had to leave the car a fair distance from their house, and walk. Not averse to walking, but being a little concerned about leaving a hire vehicle out of sight, I had no choice. Steph was indeed, quite poorly, and she soon fell asleep as grandma took the helm. Ollie was quite happy to play with me, and eat his supper, until he realised that mummy was asleep, and he wanted a cuddle. Grandma's hugs are not sufficient when mummy is not well, and carrying his baby brother in her tummy. He wanted a cuddle from them both! Bribery works wonders on a two year old, and after a biscuit, and the unusual treat of having all his toys on the floor to trip over, (he has been well trained in putting away those with which he is not playing before taking out some more,) we headed for the bathroom. I promised (perhaps not such a good idea, but needs must) that mummy would wake up when there was a nice clean boy to cuddle. I forget, sometimes, that promises to children should not be made without certainty. I also forget that you do not need too much liquid to make bubbles in a bath. With the foam overflowing, we played in the 'snow' for a considerable time, which was fortunately enough time for Steph to wake up and come and see the 'nice clean boy'. Trying to find her son among the immense amount of bubbles was amusing. With Ollie and mum, on the sofa, and the bath emptied of water (the bubbles would take longer to evaporate) I made Steph a cup of tea, gave Ollie his milk, and waited until Richard was on his way before leaving.
Lesley arrived at mum's shortly after me, and I was not quite ready. She chatted to mum for a while before we went out for dinner. It was a lovely evening, again, and we chatted about all things important, and trivial. When we met each other at four years old, we did not have the ability to think fifty years hence! When you make promises to be 'friends forever', at four years old, there is little expectation, as you cannot see past your next birthday party, which always seems to be so far off! But 'friends forever' we have remained, and I feel so blessed!
My penultimate day was spent with Mum. We went to the supermarket, again, and this time I did not buy anything edible. I did buy blouse, and almost bought a pair of boots, but I misread the price on the stand, and could not justify spending over fifty dollars on a whim, even if they were from Marks and Spencer!
After lunch, I went to see my sister, to say cheerio, and we lamented on the time we had not spent together, due to the demands on our time by our children and grandchildren. Next time!
My cousins Lesley and Natalie arrived shortly after mum and I got to Richard's house. They left before we ate dinner, and mum and I left around nine. The last evening is always a little emotional for me, and I just want to 'get going', despite wanting to spend every last second with my son. I finally 'let go' and we returned home for a final night in front of the 'tele'.
As usual, I felt as if I was in one of the final scene's of 'Kramer vs Kramer,' and went into auto pilot at seven o'clock. Mum did not wave at the door, as it was cold, and I think she, too, gets a little too upset. The traffic to the airport was remarkably light, and I was also thankful that the detour to the petrol station did not take me too far off the beaten track! The car had a little bit of damage on the hub cap, which I disputed. However, despite marking every single paint chip,(despite being told, "We don't worry about them",) I had not marked the damage around the tyres. I was, I suppose predictably, told that "No one would ever say that at Hertz", and told the person who was calling me a liar that I would tape the conversation, next time, if there was a 'next time', and then use it as evidence. I really have no idea why I wasted my breath with ultimatums, as I did not have time to present a case to a manager, as the person to whom I was connected with after the initial altercation took an extended time to come into the office. In my opinion, without prejudice, all part of the plan, no doubt.
I manhandled my cases to the bus. The airport staff were more polite than usual, and I negotiated security without a hitch. I spent more in duty free than anticipated, thanks to my daughter, and son in law, who needed a couple of things that she had failed to purchase, and I headed to the lounge, where I spent nearly two hours sending departing messages of love and best wishes, all the while eating sandwiches and cake!
The flight was wonderful. I had no one sitting next to me, and watched four excellent films. I ate far more than I should. Lunch was served, and I enjoyed the five courses with my usual of
'a third of a glass of champagne topped up with cranberry juice'. The 'pre-arrival' snack was a meal of chicken and couscous, or a plate of cheeses and meat. I was quite looking forward to the chicken dinner, and satisfied my already full stomach by munching on an orange, a pear, and two bags of crisps......and a pack of biscuits and a bar of chocolate. "Cottage Pie?" asked the stewardess. Thinking that the flight had been rather quick, and that the published meal had been changed, I accepted the offer, after questioning, "Cottage Pie?" "It's the beef with mashed potatoes, and cheese". I did not correct her, as I was impressed that they did not call it Shepherd's pie, which as we all know (or those reading as I am quite emphatic) is with lamb, but the cheese makes it 'Cumberland'. It was after I had eaten it that I looked at the menu again, and saw that this was an 'added' option. It appears it replaced the warm (rather noxious, in my opinion) chocolate chip cookies! By the time we landed, I had drunk three of my tipples (making it a whole glass of champagne) and eaten enough food to last a week!
Immigration was negotiated quickly, and efficiently. I did put my
green card on the wrong screen to begin with, then my fingertips on the wrong screen, and then the machine just 'gave up', but it soon righted itself. I was ushered to a short queue where I was welcomed 'back', rather than 'home', and then waited for a rather long period for my luggage. The customs man was quite content that I had not brought back contraband, which I, too, was quite content that I had not! The lady in front of me was perhaps not as convincing. It appears that Ribena is an acceptable product, as is coffee and drinking chocolate. I mark each item on the form, individually, so as not to be accused of hiding anything. My luggage was then taken from me, and sent to the next plane. I made my way to the lounge, after negotiating a second lot of security, and sat down with a cup of soup and some celery! Why I thought that a 'negative' food would have any impact on what I had eaten, I do not know. I would have to have eaten an entire crop, and drunk thousands of gallons of green tea to have negated an atoms worth of the food I had eaten! The diet begins Monday!
My flight was delayed due to the inbound flight being delayed. The plane finally taxied to the runway, and taxied, and taxied. I do not think I have ever been on such a long 'taxi'. I kept thinking, 'We are still on the ground', as did my fellow passengers. However, we finally lifted, and after a baileys on the rocks (just for good measure) I watched as we approached Austin. Dana was at the gate to meet me, and we finally arrived home about a quarter after midnight. Not quite a 24 hour day, but close!
The dog was very happy to see me on Saturday morning, as was my daughter. We took off for the shops and landed in Walmart at around midday. The man preparing samples of Elgin sausages was about to 'dish up' a we arrived. We walked up one aisle and down the next, only to see someone helping themselves to our sausages. "Get out of the way, lady", said Samantha, (in my earshot only,) and I repeated (in her earshot only) the same phrase. We looked at each other, and my daughter smiled and chanted, "We're back", in time to my air 'fist pump'! Back in the land where we are not understood, and where we find amusement in the same!
The emotions are variable. Each time I leave home it is a little harder to bear, but I know that I have a blessed life within my adopted country, and returning to a loving husband helps me endure the loss. The bitter-sweet reality is just that; a bitter-sweet reality. I know that I shall get back into the swing of things here quite quickly, and look forward to my next trip home, and so emotional roller coaster continues. This year will be extra hard, as the birth of my new grandson is imminent. However, I am truly blessed to have amazing family and friends on both side of the Atlantic, and they help me to continue on, and help provide for ............ another story!