I am going to London soon.
Talitha asked me to go last May, and I laughed. She wanted to plan a Europe trip and although I was interested in the idea, I was also interested in the idea of winning the lottery. I declined, citing finances and the decline of the dollar and El Nino. So she did what all women do regardless of their age.
She asked Dad.
My dad told me to go, citing faith and savings and Kensington Palace and Oxford. He did so while I was working for the church cemetery and wondering what in the name of all that is fair and good had brought me to this place....the cemetery office creeped me out.
Tal and I clicked our way through Travelocity, laughing and shouting when we clicked the 'purchase' button. Although I was excited, it didn't seem real. We planned the trip in August, and March 16th was a long ways off. I might as well have been planning to visit Once Upon a Time and singing with a fluffy monkey.
2008 rolled around, and the hazy remembrance of Travelocity clicked over in my mental View-finder.
The Trip, it seemed, was inevitable.
This probably sounds crazy, but I really was expecting something to fall through and make us cancel The Trip.
In my mind's very colorful eye, I saw Big Ben crashing down from a terrorist attack, England going to war with Quebec, or The Globe catching on fire. Something would ruin our trip, I was sure of it. Sabra would somehow defy science and grow a clubfoot, Moira's asthma would put her in the hospital, and Austin would eat peanuts. I would be needed, and thus unable to go.
I was able, through long talks with Austin and the administration of calming agents, to shy away from and dismiss such crazy notions. So what if I have only been away from the kids for 3 nights TOTAL? All would be fine, and clubfootshoes.com could help Sabra if her foot decided to club in my absence.
Crazy thoughts aside, I had some REAL fears, ones that deserved some attention:
List of Fear 1
The plane flight. I hate flying. HATE. FLYING. On my only transatlantic flight to date, I sat for twelve hours gripping my seat. I did not move, I did not use the Death Trap of a bathroom, I did not stretch my legs. During flights to Phoenix and Los Angeles, which I take several times a year, I often cry. I quietly hyperventilate and squeeze the marrow from Austin's hand. It is embarrassing, but my doctor won't give me horse tranquilizers to solve the problem. Eventually I relax and I am ok until I remember that my body is hurtling miles above rivers and mountains and cows. Moira has started holding my hand during takeoff because she knows I get scared. This means I can no longer outwardly hyperventilate, but must keep all the thoughts of untimely death inside my already tormented brain. Strangely though, her hand makes me more calm even than Austin's.
List of Fear 2
When I could get the plane flight out of my head, I worried about money. I have enough to buy a loaf of bread at some little boulangerie (I'm going to Paris too) and THEN I will have to join a gang of local street urchins who pickpocket unwitting tourists. I'm not really joking. I have been practicing Cockney.
I could bare bones The Trip, be very choosy about which museums I go to and steep teabags several times before discarding. But then again, I really want to just walk in to some fabulous little London shop and buy a one of a kind dress that makes me look like Jenifer Garner, just a carefree yet pulled together Mommy who has makes organized playdates and macrobiotic cupcakes.
And when I fancy myself whipping out the Visa, I see freaking Dave Ramsey looking at me with that irritating cocked eyebrow face that makes me feel defensive and guilty at the same time. I'm starting to worry that he has put a sensor on my credit cards that will cause them to burst into flames if ever they are used.
List of Fear 3
Being Gone. Not the clubfoot stuff again, but just the daily normal stuff. As I said, I have been absent from my kids overnight a total of three times. This makes The Trip both terrifying and exhilarating in the manner of shopping at 8:25 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Austin is a very capable and wonderful father. He does stuff that apparently other dads do not. Which is lucky, because if I found out that my husband did not change diapers and hold tea parties, we would have to look into the whole annulment thing.
But I do pack the lunches and match the clothes and brush the hair (usually) and schedule bath time. I explain why Moira is sobbing about her missing lip gloss when Austin is yelling for her to bloody well get in the car.
I know that no bodily harm will come to the kids....I think. But I still just can't shake the nervous slightly guilty feeling that I am LEAVING MY CHILDREN BEHIND!
List of Fear: Miscellaneous
I do have more where that came from; the worries don't end there. I have played fake reels of mental movies involving myself dodging bullets and running for the United States Embassy. Some of these little films end in me opening an old bakery turned bookstore and sending my family money to come join me. We would eat bangers and mash and know all of the words to 'God Save the Queen'.
List of Fear: The End
In the end I have had to concede that all or none of these things might happen. But fear potentially lurks around every corner, so why not make that corner in the gilded palace of Versailles?
It is now two weeks from the day my Rocket Dog clad feet will stumble onto the streets of what feels like a personal Mecca: London. I can do nothing but be excited. Everything points to The Trip.
Should I buy that shirt? It would look good on me in London....
I really want to work on my book, but I'll just wait for the inspiration that a pint of froth in an old building can bring.
Maybe I should bring my copy of Harry Potter on the off-chance that I see J.K. Rowling.
My itinerary is ready; I am going to walk into Westminster Abbey and say hullo to Elizabeth I. I will snub Bloody Mary and gape at the Coronation Chair. I will lay my hands on the table where Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings shared their burgeoning contributions to literature. I will see Stonehenge and wonder what on earth those crazy Celts were thinking.
But will it be as incredible as I imagine? I have a vivid imagination; I like to create little worlds in my head so I can better play the scripts of history and fiction. I see the chapel in my head already, I can smell the musty air. Perhaps it will deflate the creative balloon that has grown over the years? Will the Eagle and Child Pub be a disappointment? Will I knock Stonehenge over like Chevy Chase?
I think I just don't want to have to trade my fairy tale London for the real one. Perhaps the real is better; I would wager a guess that this is so. But if I get there and Shakespeare's ghost doesn't whisper to me on a double-decker bus, will I be let down?
I am joking; sort of. But all of these thoughts made me think of Disneyland. Yes, random.
My kids LOVE themselves some Disney. Last year, Moira was beside-herself-can't-sleep-talking-million-miles-a-second excited when we were preparing for our Disneyland trip. I was slightly concerned that she would freak out when Dopey got too close and Donald walked by without knowing her as intimately as she knew him. It had been a pattern with her to REALLY REALLY WANNA PLEASE MOMMY CAN I GO SEE SANTA NOW and then scream when he tried to pick her up.
Moira, Sabra, Talitha, Kendall and I literally ran into Minnie Mouse in Toontown just as she was walking to her house. We all stood in awe at her huge bobble-like head and that famous dress. As Tyson and Austin grabbed the cameras for this rare photo-op, (rare because we didn't wait for 4 hours and thus the children were smiling) the girls shook with excitement. If they were puppies, one might have had an accident. Sabra probably did.
All that build-up, all those Playhouse Disney viewings had created a version of polka-dot dresses and sailor hats in their little heads that they were now experiencing in the flesh.
And they were delighted.
I don't think that the kids compared versions of the famous mouse. They loved hugging the big Minnie Mouse, but they also love the regular, everyday high-pitched rodent that plays on their television. Moira hasn't seemed less excited with the storybook version than with the bobbleheaded mouse giant. So far they have both excited her in different ways. One is more thrilling, the other more accessible.
Thus go I to London: armed with thoughts of Disneyland, Sabra's potential clubfoot, and crumbled Big Ben.
But I also go with excitement. It may not match my dreams, and I might not sit next to Shakespeare. But it will be real, which is exciting enough.
And when I return, I will bring the choicest pieces of The Trip home with me.
Memory will serve to unite that which I have seen and that which I have created through years of reading and writing and dreaming.
So I have concluded that The Trip is worth the flight of death, the Cockney gang, and the bullet dodging.
To London: to travel, to pints of froth, and to inspiration.
But I will still snub Bloody Mary.