The first post of 2014 seems like a fitting time to be looking forward, making pronouncements of fresh hopes and plans, maybe even throwing down a challenge or two. But instead, before any more time elapses, I need to take a backward glance at one of the unexpected blessings of 2013: our Kiwi friends!
This sweet family -- Vernon, Isa, and their three children, Caspian, Seraphine and Pascale -- arrived from New Zealand here in Cambridge right around the time we did. Vernon was on a 6-month sabbatical, and Isa was experimenting with homeschooling during their time here. We met at the home of Karen, a British friend who reached out to both of us via a local homeschooling loop back in August. Although our rental homes were in the same area of the city, it took a few weeks for the friendship to gel, but I knew we had the makings of something solid when, upon leaving another meet-up at Karen's, Isa confided that her kids really wanted to see mine the next day and maybe the day after that, but she was afraid we might think they were stalkers. I looked at her and said, "Seriously? I just had the same conversation with MY kids!"
Nothing like a little transparency to endear new friends to one another.
There's something about being sojourners in a strange land that seems to draw people together quickly. Over the next few months, we swapped travel tips, stories of adjustments and maladjustments, play dates when husbands were out of town and no relatives were around to lend helping hands, recipes, and dire tales of being upbraided by natives for cycling errors.
They departed for New Zealand ("Middle Earth!" say my children) last Friday, heading for Heathrow in a taxi after lunch and final hugs at our place, and we're already missing them dearly. My children are learning, as I still am, that to choose to love comes at a cost. The joy of attachment means the pain of goodbyes, but the reverse is also true. We think it's worth it.
Here's to our children's gentle ribbing about each other's "funny accents."
Here's to those bus rides every other Thursday across town to Multi Sports, when one or the other of us always seemed befuddle the driver with our fares, resulting in lengthy negotiations while the rest of the passengers stared at us in silence. And about that silence? Our motto on those rides: "Making the Citizens of Cambridge Wonder Why Those Children Aren't in School, One Lively Bus Ride at a Time."
Oh, and speaking of bus rides, here's to that first one ever, when we were so appalled at the expense of getting two moms and six children across town on a public bus that we decided to max out the use of our day rider passes and hop off at the Salvation Army shop. Our sons wanted to buy a book together, but I needed to meet a 5£ minimum to use my debit card. I ended up grabbing a whiteboard that was lying around near the cash register, and then we had the fun of maneuvering it onto the bus. We do all our spelling and grammar on that whiteboard, so our friends will never be forgotten!
Here's to knowing it must be them whenever I saw another mother with three school-aged children coming toward us on bikes during the day in our neighborhood.
Here's to trips to the circus and the London Museum of Science (with our Canadian friends).
Here's to that trip to the Roald Dahl Museum that never happened.
Here's to homemade pizza and fireworks in their back yard for Guy Fawkes Day, and her amazing sushi salad potluck recipe, and all the gluten-free baked goods she produced out of consideration for two of us Dillers.
Here's to forgetting about our houses looking presentable for each other.
Here's to Mums' Day Out on our bikes to the craft fair in town.
Here's to emergency trips to the playground when the natives were getting too restless to share four walls with.
And here's to our children and all the fun they had together, especially when the Brits and Canadians were thrown into the mix. From four different cultures, countries, and accents, they crafted a language all their own, with words and phrases and acronyms completely opaque to anyone but them. On their last meeting all together, they buried a time capsule in the Brits' back yard, promising to reunite in twenty years and dig it up, and pledge an oath of international allegiance to one another.
(Photo by Vernon)