Tomorrow is the last full day of my week-long trip to visit friends in the U.K. It’s been wonderful to be back in England. I have a long history of spending time in this country starting with the year I studied here as part of my college education. I’ve been back many times since then, although my most recent return was five years ago.
This trip has been both nostalgic and new; whenever I visit England I try to get a taste of the things that occupy my memories: a return to the streets and train stations of London, a tourist site or two, the spacious green parks that I once knew so well. I like to have at least one pint of lager in a local pub, feed the ducks and swans at a pond, have Indian “take away” for dinner one night (I haven’t gotten to that yet this time), and try to get out to the countryside. The food is so fresh here, the chocolate so delectable, the pies and cakes so unbelievably good. And of course there is the accent (or accents), which, if I’m not careful, I start picking up quickly.
I’ve had the luxury of being both a tourist and a private guest during this trip. I had a chance to go to the National Gallery in London, snap photos of Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament, and eat in a trendy Holden restaurant (although my effort to dress appropriately for a trip into London fell amusingly short when a waiter tripped and spilled two large frappes all over me).
In addition to having a chance to be a tourist, however, I’ve enjoyed the homey hospitality of good friends. I’ve spent time doing things with Arthur and Rachel and their kids, such as taking a leisurely drive through the Cotswolds, walking from their house to the supermarket to buy groceries, meeting Rachel’s Aunt Gena, and having a family dinner at the local pub. Tomorrow I’ll watch 8-year-old Maya in her school play.
As Friday and my return to the States draws near, I have mixed feelings. I love England, and I always hate to leave. But I have also touched base twice with my parents while I’ve been here, and I know that my father is being sent home after a 2-month stay at a rehab facility and that his life will not be the same as it was before his hospitalization. This will be a huge adjustment for my parents.
So slowly the worries of my life back home are returning; my parents’ adjusted life, the work I need to find, new courses I have to prepare to teach starting January 21. The writing I have to get back to. My husband is waiting for me and so are my cats.
But tomorrow, for one more day, I want to just be here. I want to experience it all again in my mind, drive through the countryside, watch the horses in their coats and the fluffy sheep graze, walk in a light rain, peek into back gardens through the holes in slatted fences, pet Molly the border collie/sheepdog mix, eat raspberry tarts and chocolate coated biscuits, feed swans, geese, and seagulls with old, crusty bread, and drink hot tea, lager, and spicy mulled wine.
And then, I know, it will be time to go home.