Yesterday I was crossing the street and I looked to my right before stepping into the street. Then I thought, “Wait, it’s the other way here!” So I looked left. And then I realized my first instinct was correct. I’ve gotten used to the idea that the way to look here is the opposite of the way I’m used to looking in America, so I need to check myself before crossing. But at the same time, I’ve grown accustomed to doing it the way they do it here. So what used to be counter-intuitive is now intuitive. And I find myself with a double-whammy of second-guessing. Weird.
If you followed that, you get a gold star for the day. If you followed that before any caffeine intake, you get two gold stars!
Now where was I? Oh, yeah– second-guessing. I cannot tell you how often Claire and Quinn hit me with questions about why we had to move to London, why we had to get rid of Gus, when we’re going back, when we’re going to visit Gus, etc. It is so wearying to answer over and over, always with an emphasis on the positive– and no, I’m not going to answer here, too! Then, this morning, after we just missed a bus and found there wasn’t another one coming for 13 minutes, we started walking the first leg of our trip to school.
We were walking down England’s Lane when Quinn said, “I smell Grandpa!”
“What do you mean?”
“I smell his beard and his hair! Yaay, Grandpa came back to London!”
“Quinn, if Grandpa were here, he would come see us.”
“Well maybe he was smuggling something and he had to go into hiding!”
Oh-kay… just what do you know about smuggling, kid? And I still don’t know what made Quinn say that, but maybe it was a smell coming out of one of the salons we walk past on that street. The boy has an incredible nose. Maybe he has a future in the wine business or something. But press on two blocks to Eton Ave, a pretty street with big houses (most divided into flats) and a few really nice British schools (it’s also where this “no steaming dog poo” tile can be found in the sidewalk. See “I really can’t use…” for more on that). Quinn pipes up again, “Mom? What did you say when Will first came home and he said ‘hi’ in a sleepy voice? Did you laugh?”
“I think I smiled, and maybe even cried a little,” I said, voice breaking (damn), “because I was so happy to see him.”
“It was tears of joy,” Claire explained.
What are these kids trying to do to me this morning? Do you think they are playing me, or do they really still keep wondering why we are here and are they really still working through their own feelings? I swear to you that I answer positively every time these questions come up~ except that sometimes I do get choked up about Will and Gus. But I think it’s okay for them to know that I miss those boys terribly– that’s natural. The point is, they have never, ever heard me say anything like, “I wish we were still in America.” Never. Because I don’t feel that way. Things might be hard here sometimes, and I get tired; but I’m never wishing we hadn’t done this.
And I struggle with how to handle these discussions with them, because I don’t want to crush them, but neither do I want to feed false expectations. We will probably not ever go back and live in our house on Glendale Rd., Will has gone off to college and would be there anyway (and Chloe will do the same next year), and I will not take Gus away from his new home and family (unless Josie needs to find him a new home at some point). Soooo…. there’s no going back to where we were a year ago. It’s gone.I’ve told them that in small, specific doses– like, “Honey, Will is going to be living at college now even if we were living in the U.S.” or “Gus has a new home now, and he’s happy, and he has doggie brothers. It wouldn’t be fair to take him away from that home.” So seriously, if you can see something going on here that I can’t– because of that whole ‘can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees’ thing– I’m open to hearing about it. I don’t know how much longer I can keep patiently answering the same questions with a positive attitude…
Now, before I go, an explanation about the photo above left. Jeremy Clarkson is a very well known “TV Presenter” in the UK– he co-hosts a show called “Top Gear,” which, according to Will, is currently one of the biggest shows on the planet (shown all over the world). It is certainly hilarious and good fun as far as we are concerned. (And the American version– with American hosts?– is not nearly as good; so try to catch the BBC one– I know it runs in the U.S. sometimes). Anyway, shortly after we arrived in London, I found this mask in one of the cheap tourist shops near the big attractions, and I picked it up to mail to Will. Well, you’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t immediately get it mailed, and then it filtered down to the bottom of a stack of papers somewhere and I forgot all about it. When it surfaced in a late fall sorting, I thought, “okay, I’ll put it in his Christmas stocking or something.” So I tucked it away and forgot about it again– all the way straight through Christmas.
I rediscovered it just when I was starting to feel dejected about Will’s upcoming departure in January. Seriously, I was not much fun to be around at that point– just a sad, prickly ball of tension, prone to leaking tears with no provocation, and then going behind closed doors to shed more tears, more privately. One day I donned the mask and walked up behind Will to say something. He nearly fell on his butt when he caught sight of the stranger in the room. Then we laughed, and I thoroughly enjoyed having gotten one off on Will, the prince of pranks. The thing is weirdly real. Even though your brain tells you it’s a mask, it never fails to startle, and it always takes a moment to process that it’s not what you think. Over the next few days, that mask (usually with Will behind it) pranked each of us multiple times. You would think you’d get used to it. Nope. You would think you’d grow tired of it. Nope. Two days after Will left, Chloe found it under her pillow and about fell out of bed. What bothered her most might have been that she slept with it under her pillow one night without realizing it, and the thing is just so creepily real! The photo above is one we took with my iphone and texted to Will one night when he was studying.
Hmmm. Maybe I should go back to the tourist shop and pick up a few more different masks– the Queen, Paul McCartney, Prince William, Harry Potter?– and keep them handy to slap on the next time the kids start asking the same old questions. Maybe if they can’t listen to/accept/remember my answers, they would enjoy hearing the Queen explain that Dad’s business expertise was particularly needed in the London office and that the entire nation is grateful we are here. Or Paul McCartney could explain that their presence in the school so near Abbey Road is quite an inspiration to him and he might soon write another song like “Here Comes the Sun.”
Just trying to think outside the box a little, sometimes things are counter-intuitive, and sometimes they’re counter to counter-intuitive. And sometimes they just don’t make sense.