I was waiting for my sister to come and join me in London, as if, instead of being on vacation, I was being held hostage, waiting for someone to rescue me while the yellow ribbons tied around the old oak tree faded and turned to tatters and the days disappeared. As though my grandmother and uncle had kept me locked in a squalid room, or hidden me under the stairs like I was Harry Potter. The reality was that I'd been spending a few weeks at their absolutely lovely house in Chorleywood on the outskirts of London and I was miserable. I'd come down with a simple case of old-fashioned homesickness, made worse by a touch of social anxiety. I felt so lonely I wanted to die but I wasn't dying. I was perfectly healthy. At least physically. I had a fully stocked kitchen at my disposal, my own room, I could come and go as I pleased. Yet there were days when the idea of taking the train into London filled me with dread. I tried to go. I often did. I visited the sites. I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, walked along the pathways by the lake in Saint James Park, longing to be one of the friends and lovers gathering on the lawns. I browsed the shops on Oxford Street, bought worry beads on Carnaby Street. Felt like a Zombie through it all. My younger sister Nancy, being flown in by my parents would be my cure. My salvation. Tooling down the motorway from Chorleywood to Heathrow in the back seat of my uncle's car, my grandmother up front, I watched as the M25 sped by and tried to be calm but I was screaming inside. I couldn't wait to get to the airport, I couldn't wait to see my sister.
When I saw her coming off the plane it might as well have been a Beatles landing for all my histrionics. Screaming, crying. Running towards her like lovers do in those commercials filled with wheat-fields. I was ecstatic. Overjoyed. Overwrought, is what I was.
I couldn't wait to get away from her. To get shut of her, as some Brits might say.
What a selfish, immature brat I was. My grandmother and my uncle had opened their home to me, tried to make me feel welcome and here I was acting as if staying with them were some sort of torture, possibly worse than waterboarding. As though Nancy were a Navy Seal conducting a rescue mission. It wasn't them, it was me, but back then all I wanted was to get away from them, go somewhere else.
So we left the confines of my grandmother and uncle's lovely Chorleywood house behind and set off for our other grandmother's house in Preston. Preston, Lancashire is in the north of England, just a few hours away geographically, but a world away from the sophisticated south. Nancy and I ended up taking a bus because even though it was about three times slower than the train, the train was four times as expensive. Very dear, you might say. At twenty I had all the time in the world. I wasn't quite as flush when it came to money.
While our south of England grandmother had visited us a few times when we lived in Canada, written long letters to our mum every week and sent 'prezzies' every Christmas, we'd never met our dad's mum, never, truth be told, heard much about her. All we knew was if her accent was as thick as our dad's imitation, we'd barely be able to understand her. Sitting on the bus, laughing together as Nancy caught me up on happenings back home in California, making plans to head for France after we left Preston, we couldn't wait to find out.
I'm linking up with British Isles Friday
You'll find more of my Brit-themed posts under the State of Britain tab