Wednesday, November 6, 2013
My Dad and the UK - English Experiences, Part 2.
I have had a relationship with England for a long time now. I consider myself an Anglophile because I love British novels, and not just those about Bridget Jones, but ones I get online, written by less-well known authors, and I am familiar with a lot of aspects of British life, including places, foods, attitudes, and events. However, I have also, since early childhood, had a lot of ties with the UK. It seems that it is almost my destiny, therefore, to have spent three weeks living there this October.
The whole time I was there, I couldn’t help but think about my family and my Dad, who traveled to the UK often for his job with Boeing, who had a partnership with a company there that made airplane components. I remember Mom packing his suitcase with socks, underwear, and toiletries while he packed documents into his black leather, monogrammed briefcase until it bulged. I remember walking him to the gate in the North terminal, which you could still do back then, and waving goodbye sadly. Two weeks later we would be back at the airport – this time in the area outside customs. From the waiting area, you could, by escalator, get to another floor with windows that overlooked the customs area and my sister and I would ride up there and watch the milling floor below us for my father. When we saw his distinctive, lanky, suit-jacketed frame, we would race back down the escalator to our patient mother.
At home, he would throw his big suitcase down on the bed where we perched excitedly, knowing he would have magical gifts from that faraway place buried amongst his shirts and socks. And he did. My father always took time during what I’m sure were busy and work-filled trips to search out special things for his family. China teacups and pretty household things for mom, and fun things for us like English comics, books, purses, and once, for me, a Paddington Bear stationery set that I never used up because I treasured it so much. He started my life-long practice of always bringing gifts back from trips for the people I love – something that seems entirely natural to me.
Quite often, the British company would send workers to the US and I remember my parents hosting them often at our house – breaking out the nice dishes and the French onion dip. They often brought us special After Eight dinner mints, which you couldn’t get here back then, and which were a huge treat. We got to know a few of them very well, exchanging Christmas cards and wedding announcements – including one family with two daughters our ages that relocated here for a year, with whom we became friends.
My mother went with him once, on a business trip, when we were maybe seven and nine, leaving us with my best friend’s family, and returning with the exciting whiff of a foreign land. And, finally, we all went as a family, when I was eleven and my sister was thirteen. It was a trip I remember well, mostly for all the forced walking they made us do – to landmarks and sights – with not much in the way of lunch. My mother always averred that after the huge English breakfasts, “we wouldn’t possibly need anything until dinner.” Which was not true. I remember cramped B and B’s, the London Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and even the beauty of Cornwall. So it wasn’t all bad and memories from it have stayed with me and enhanced my Anglophilia.
So I couldn’t help but think of my mother and father as I walked the streets and travelled through the Tube, and viewed the Crown Jewels – as we had also done. I know back then I yearned to be grown up and mature, doing my own thing and being a (beautiful and accomplished) seasoned traveler. It felt good to come back as that mature (I hope), somewhat attractive traveler, and make some new memories as an adult. Not to rewrite the old ones because, as I have said, some are very good, but to add to them from an older, wiser perspective. It felt good to be back in that place to which I have had so many ties for so long. And when I went to see Dad after we got back, and sat beside him and told him where we had been and what we had been doing and reminded him of our trip as a young family – I hope he heard and understood, and remembered those good things with me.