A cool thing happened on the way to Bath. While waiting for the train to the airport, a woman came up to us and said cheerfully, "Happy Thanksgiving! Have a good time in England!" I must have looked confused, or maybe even scared of the magic lady who knew everything, because she quickly added, "Oh, you don't know me but I read your blog."
I didn't get her name, but whoever you are, nice blog-reading lady, thanks for making my day. (And congratulations -- you rendered Alex speechless which is super hard to do.)
That encounter made my day for sure, but only until we got to the airport and I was confronted with this:
Then my day was most irreparably broken
My fear of flying is alive and well. The smaller the airplane, the greater the fear. I always swore I'd never get on a prop plane. But then the airport shuttle pulled up in front of this rickety old pile of bolts -- I swear the Wright brothers themselves had a hand in building this thing -- and the shuttle driver opened the doors. The phrase, "my blood ran cold" never held much meaning for me until that very second.
Alex stared out the shuttle window and whispered, "Oh God, please don't let that be our plane." It wasn't for fear of his own safety; he just knew there was about to be an ugly altercation in which he was going to have to pry my fingers from the back of the bus seat and drag me towards the plane as I screamed, "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"
But of course I got on the plane. I calmly climbed the whole three steps it took to get onto the rinky dink little thing. I was resigned to my fate and hoped my parents would be able to carry on after the crushing blow of losing all of us at once. But as always, once we were up in the air, cruising along smoothly and drinking apple juice, IT WASN'T A BIG DEAL and I am an idiot.
We were picked up at the Bristol airport by a driver named Paul who looked like a cross between a teddy bear and a hitman. The winding drive to Bath, through pastures and tiny villages, would have been enjoyable except that Lucien, who is apparently no longer used to cars, started to heave and turn pale green.
Al grabbed a bag of Cheerios out of my bag and held it up to Lucien's mouth. I, for reasons I don't understand, yelled, "No, not the Cheerios!" and tried to dump the contents out before our son retched all over them. Cheerios flew through the air. It would have been delightfully festive if there hadn't been so much tension in the air about vomit.
Lucien, thankfully, didn't get sick and returned to his usual loud self as soon as we arrived at New York Family's house. Paul looked happy we were out of his car.
And then we were with friends and life was so good. New York Mom and Dad's home in Bath is very big. It's like a real house! Look at this real kitchen! What do all those thingies do? I've been cooking with a glorified toaster oven for almost two years now and can't remember.
The Moms stayed in that first night, preparing pies and cranberry sauce and whatnot for the following day. The Dads went out to a local pub after putting the kids to bed with surprisingly little trouble. We assumed The Dads were out having a rowdy night but were proven wrong when they came back early and the first question out of their mouths was, "What else did Jane Austen write besides Sense and Sensibility?" It appears The Dads have forgotten how to have fun.
But it was nice to have them back. We had a few drinks and many laughs in the kitchen. Al confessed he cried at the end of Armageddon. Then Alex made us play a word association game where "Slash" (from Guns-n-Roses) was linked with "interesting hats" and "Richard Gere" was associated with "gerbil." I realize none of this makes sense to anyone who wasn't there, but if it's any consolation, it didn't make much sense to those of us standing in the room, either.
The next day, Virginia Mom and I stepped out to investigate the cuteness of Bath (verdict: ridiculously cute). We ducked into a few shops and heard English people say adorable things. A young man turned to his girlfriend and instead of saying something dull like, "I'm hungry. Let's eat," he said, "Darling, I just need a bit of sustenance. A bit of sustenance really darling, and then I can push on." Man, that was so cute I almost gave him a big hug from behind.
While the turkey cooked, the men took the kids to a nearby playground. Several kids returned with injuries. When we asked what happened, The Dads said things like, "Gosh, we don't know. I mean, we piled them all on top of each other and shoved 'em down a slide but we really don't know. Kids just get hurt, I guess...."
The mauling of the children by the menfolk continued in the living room:
Not even the littlest was spared:
Then there was a lot of food.
There ain't just a turkey in the oven. There's a bun in the oven, too. whoot whoot!
How many dark-haired men wearing glasses does it take to carve a turkey? Two, I guess.
Virginia Dad's wine looks super heavy
Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Cokes
It was pointed out by New York Mom later that we were so caught up in making the food bend to our will (some of it was ornery) we forgot to say a darn thing about the point of Thanksgiving to the kids. As far as the kids knew, we just washed 'em up, slapped some fancy clothes on 'em and made them eat turkey at a small table in the corner. They had no idea why. Oops.
But other than missing the entire point of Thanksgiving, the whole thing really went off without a hitch. The kids were fantastic. I mean, sure, Lucien is still Lucien --
-- but he did his best. He told me later, "Next time I want less princesses and more FIGHTING."
When you're far from family, friends become your family. We always felt that way living in Seattle because our families were far away. Now that we're even farther away -- and far from our friends who became our stand-in family -- we've made new friends who have to function as both family and the stand-in for the stand-in friend family. They have many responsibilities and I must say they're bearing them beautifully.
We'll miss Paris when we leave. God, how we'll miss Paris. But what we'll miss even more are the people. I hope that wasn't our last time all together with some of our favorites. Really, guys, it just can't be the last time.
This is how my posse rolls in Bath
And that's a goddman propeller out the window on the flight home. Goddammit!
Aerosmith! Liz Taylor! Happy Thanksgiving!