Day 8 of the 30-day challenge.
Let the narcissism resume.
My family took what we will call for the purposes of this post, a four-year vacation.
In 1996, my dad took a job in London, England. In the six-week period prior to him actually accepting the position, we took a family, see-if-we-could-imagine-living-here trip. We looked at houses, in the city and out. We looked at schools. We went to the Dr. Martens shop and didn’t get it. Five floors of shoes?
We came back and my parents packed up the house. We put a lot of things that we thought we would care about later into storage (unpacking those things four years later was filled with a lot of ummmmmm-so-why-again-did-we-want-to-keep-that? questions). We sold our cars. We sold our house. We went to the airport. We checked one cooler, one boombox, and 15 pieces of luggage that contained everything my dad would need for work, and everything my brother and I would need for school, and everything my mom would need to keep us all going for six weeks until our furniture and the rest of our things arrived on a boat.
Now would probably be the time to recognize that this was not as much of a four-year vacation for my parents as it was for my brother and me. My dad worked, hard. And my mom re-coordinated every single thing in our lives so that we all had a great time. All those “we” statements above that involve a lot of work and planning and probably stress? I really had nothing to do with those.
For four years, we lived in a county southwest of the city. Surrey was London’s younger, but softer and more thoughtful and reserved sister. The county was full of big trees and small towns connected by even smaller roads filled with, well, let’s face it, cars that were about as big as the roads themselves. The thickets and cobblestones and gardens of nursery stories come to life in Surrey. Our house backed up to a huge wooded area called the heath. There were trails that wove through the woods, and ponds and hills and you could walk for miles. I have not read Harry Potter but I would bet there are some heaths in there.
We would eat gyros that were sold from a man who drove his gyro truck to High Street in our town on Friday nights. We would go into the city on the weekends to walk Regent Street or see the Camden or Nottinghill markets, or go to a concert, or grab our favorite Japanese food (mom! I just looked it up and the one we used to go to that was near Picadilly was on Norris St. Funny, huh?). My mom and I saw Michael Jackson in Trafalgar Square, like he was close enough to touch. But I wouldn’t recommend trying to touch anyone wearing a breathing mask. I got to work in graphic design at my dad’s office. We took a limo though a McDonald’s drive through for my birthday. We were downtown for the millennium. I think my mom took at least 10 different families who came to visit us on the double-decker bus tour of the city, she could recite it herself. We learned to read train schedules. We never once missed the last train on the Guildford via Cobham line.
We went to a school full of expatriate kids. Kids who came from a lot of countries who have and will end up in a lot of countries. When you played on sports teams and were up for a mid- or end-of-season competition, it would be in Paris or Cairo or Brussels. We made friends that we will always keep close because we bonded so quickly with other in our same expatriate position.
Here we are at one of those friend’s weddings in May:
While we were there, we took vacations. We went to Africa and went on safaris, and had picnics with warthogs, and ate at a place that was the um, original Fogo de Chao. A buffet of wild game on spears and a side of cooked worms.
We went to Jersey in the English Channel where the tide races out in the afternoon what seems like a quarter mile and the island seems to double its available landmass, boats suddenly beached, and waterfront properties left behind.
We went to Italy and stayed in a house on top of a hill. Just our family. We’d skid down the hill in whatever small Italian car we had rented to the grocery store and pick up groceries that we were 70% confident of what each item was with the use of our pocket dictionary.
Oh, the pocket dictionary. Dictionaries.
I know what a lorry is. I know not to eat black pudding. I spell travelled with two Ls and grey with an E.
I could name 100 more experiences. It was awesome.
I am sure there were things that were harder for my parents. The rooms in our houses had sinks but no closets, and I vividly remember going the wrong way on a large roundabout, to name a few. But they’re not really ones to complain.
Thanks, mom and dad. What fun times.