26 August, 2009

the sky leads home

One glorious afternoon in New Jersey, one evening at Heathrow, one night flight, one luggage-heavy taxi-ride later, and we're back home, safe in London.

Dare I say it, we're also unpacked, settled in, Avery's ENTIRE closet emptied because precisely NOTHING fits her after this Year of Intense Growth Outward and Upward. I sent her upstairs with her suitcase to "unpack," only immediately to hear a pathetic wail, "But my closet is already full, and NOTHING fits me!" So upstairs for the sad task of taking away many beloved garments: the plaid Burberry wrap-around skirt her besotted father bought for her at Selfridges several Christmases ago, the gorgeous Rachel Riley white Capri pants that served for just a few seasons, the t-shirt I adored that said, "YOU WISH..." on the front and "You could ride like a girl" on the back, with a darling pony illustration. Childhood in cotton knit.

Yesterday saw us with our irreplaceable friends in New Jersey, mimicking for an afternoon the perfect Fourth of July nearly two months ago, now. Livia and I set the table out on the screened porch (my dream is to have such a luxury, the outdoors without bugs), and we tucked into gazpacho, and sandwiches of ham, turkey, pumpernickel bread, lettuce and homemade Russian dressing. Most important, we finally got the perfect photograph of Avery with Janice. This photo makes me cry every time I see it. Avery's lifetime, our entire married life, spent in friendship with this wonderful woman! Everything, practically, that I know about hostessing, about being hospitable, welcoming, has come to me from this lady.

How she and Avery adore each other, being extra grandmother and extra grandchild to one another. "Darling girl, tell me about the horses you have been riding this summer, and how is school?" In her turn, Livia (no fan of small children, nor am I in general) casually brings out a stack of books. "Take a look at this one, where Sherlock Holmes is only ONE of the important characters, and another is a 15-year-old girl," and Avery was smitten at once. Avery is chary with her affections, giving her love to a small number of people she has learned to trust. And even though so much of their relationship has been spent apart, there is a deep well of love among these three ladies, separated by perhaps 75 years in age (one does not ask!) that makes me very, very happy.

Livia went AWOL for the afternoon from her job, and we simply sat around and TALKED. The fan in the white kitchen whirred, the leaflets and brochures from their recent cruise came out, in a blatant attempt to sell us on accompanying them next year. We ate cookies, drank coffee, talked about our summer, the differences between the English and American characters. A quick glimpse of the feral cat and her three kittens that Livia and Janice have been feeding on their back porch... Avery crouching, putting out her hand, sure she can "whisper" them into sociability. Given more than a few hours, I'm sure she could. Then all too soon it was time to leave. Hugs all round, exhortations to stay in touch, to make plans at Christmastime. "Darling Other Mother," I say, hugging her as closely as I can, believing firmly that one should have as many mothers as one can. "And my own Other Daughter," she laughs, "How we will miss you." A love composed mostly of saying goodbye, these days. But better than nothing...

And so, after a cozy, dark, nighttime flight, we are back! Grey skies, sprinkling rain, yes, it's home. All the cats milling around looking MUCH larger than when we left them in July (a combination of the contrast with the tiny summer kittens and also the lack of exercise I'm sure they've experienced, with no family to chase up and down the stairs of the house!). We unpacked quickly to get it over, I hate unpacking. Revelled in the Quixotic but useful machinations of our cleaning lady, who likes to organize kitchen pantry items by size, not category, so porcini mushrooms rub shoulders with black beans and Nasi Goreng paste, because they're all... the same height tins and jars. Same with our clothes: all the black things I own (and they are many) are stacked together: shirts, sweaters, leggings, trousers. Because... they're black. No matter, I'm thrilled to see everything in such perfect order.

After unpacking and eating a desultory lunch of lentils and tuna (my cupboard and fridge are BARE!), I succumbed to a nap, Avery to a marathon bath, and John to who knows what financial machinations keep him happy and awake. Then to the supermarket in the spitty London rain for provisions: mozzarella, chorizo, mushrooms, peppers, red onions, sausages, and ROCKET! Proper ROCKET, with that beloved snappy bite I have missed all summer. Rocket! I made pizza dough, pizza sauce, sliced and chopped, marinated and roasted chicken wings with a yogurt and parsley dipping sauce. We all assembled our pizzas, they baked, we ate, and then... started to fall apart. Everyone to bed early, disbelieving, as always, that we have left one complete life behind to start up another. It will take all of a week or so for it to feel normal.

This adjustment will be compounded by the fact that tomorrow, we drive Avery to Cornwall to spend a week with her beloved and much-missed Emily and family! John and I will spend one night and then head back to London to do... I know not what, on our own for a few days. Then everyone will come back for the start of school. And normal life... resumes. Just for now, for this evening surrounded by grateful, purring cats, the dishwasher humming in the background, everyone but we sound asleep: we're home. Leaving behind another home country diminished by the sad death of Edward Kennedy, a true Democrat. We'll try to help Avery understand that legacy, as complex as it was. It's intriguing how England is mourning his loss, considering the mixed-up relationship the English had with his Irish loyalties. How lucky we are to live with both these cultures, and how difficult it is to try to understand both. We'll give it our all, as usual, and let you know.


Nell said...

Dear Kristen,

I am reading your blog from, of all places, Sydney, Australia, which is where i live. I stumbled across it completely by accident, as you do sometimes, and have been reading the whole thing non-stop for the last few months. I don't usually leave comments on blogs, but I just wanted to let you know how much i've enjoyed reading about your adventures in the world and in the kitchen! What i like best about your writing is that it makes me feel like i am right there with you (in a good way, not a stalker-ish way) - you have a wonderful way of evoking a sort of lovely nostalgia in all of your posts, if that makes any sense.

Good luck with your cook book!

Nell :)

Foxi Rosie said...

Here, here... and welcome home my lovlies.

Kristen In London said...

Thank you, Nell, and welcome! I'm so happy you're enjoying the blog. I love that you feel you're in my kitchen, and that the blog makes you feel cozy. That's the whole point.

Dearest Foxi, we WERE home, then to Cornwall, now back to STAY! Exhausted, somewhat stressed having left Avery there for five more days! But we are happy to have your welcome... hoping so much to see you soon.