You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
Alternate title: Jesus is a Tortilla?
I made it home. Where to start…The beginning, I think, should work well enough.
Friday, July 1: Packed my luggage, careful not to miss anything. Went with Chris shopping for gifts for his family, then all of us proceeded to rendezvous at Delorey’s. From there we went to a bar on a boat on the Thames, where they drank and we all ate lots of pretty good food. I finally had fish and chips there, though they were less inspired than the nachos we ordered for an appetizer. For dessert we went to a patisserie (no I cannot spell that) and I enjoyed strawberry cheesecake, then a little bit of Chris’s leftover tiramisu while he ate the last of my cheesecake. We talked and laughed and enjoyed ourselvs as a whole group for the last time. When we got back I called Ian, finished the minutes on my phone card, and went to bed early, anticipating an early morning.
Saturday July 2: Got up at 5:15 AM. Prepared myself and was ready to leave by 6:00. Sat in the kitchen and talked with Chris until 6:45, when the hired taxi/van arrived. We loaded our bags in and settled down for the drive to Heathrow. It took much less time to get there than we expected. Ryan and I had inadvertently booked the same flight to London and back, so the driver dropped both of us off at Terminal 3. A line stretched a depressing length at the check-in point; I spoke to an employee standing at the end, and she asked: “Are you a US citizen? Did you fly here on American Airlines? Do you have your credit card?” Turns out that we could self-check in having answered yes to all three of her questions. I had felt some concern about the weight of my bag; it dragged on my arm and felt quite heavy, but I could not imagine it weighing more than the 32 kilo weight restriction. Turns out it actually weighed 36 kilos, which is almost 80 lbs, but thankfully the lady checking my bag said nothing and failed to charge me for the extra weight.
Ryan and I then found ourselves checked in, with boarding passes, at the airport at 7:40 am without an assigned gate. He had about £25 left and kindly bought me a breakfast of a croissant, muffin, and fruit salad. Then we waited. We passed through the departures security point, a real pleasure compared to the overwrought, inefficient TSA checkpoints in American airports. Two security ladies were deciding on a name for a baby, and commented that once they had thought of the name Katie, three Katies (me being the third) had appeared. We laughed and joked about the name for a while and I actually felt happy as they checked my innocent bags. After being scanned, Ryan and I still had lots of time to kill. The waiting area sported vast tracts of duty-free stores selling alcohol and cartons of cigarettes, as well as expensive stores like Bulgravia (?) and Gucci. I suppose people who have nothing else to do will spend money. I read Robots and Empire, which I purchased Friday afternoon with my remaining £7, while anxiously checking the screen for an announcement of our gate. Boston AA 109 remained obstinately labeled Please Wait until about half an hour before boarding. Then finally Gate 16 appeared. Ryan and I gathered our belongings, walked along those cool moving-walkways, passed through more security, and ultimately arrived in the Gate 16 lounge.
The flight was mercifully uneventful. Unlike the flight over, it took place during the day and I felt that significant amounts of sleeping would throw me off. I therefore stayed awake reading by Robots and Empire and watching the journey information/progress screen, dozing only intermittently. Because I stayed awake the whole time, the seven-hour journey felt excruciatingly long. The little plane icon and its accompanying red line seemed to inch along at a snail’s pace. Yet travelling at 500 miles an hour does eventually convey you to your destination, and so we did arrive at Boston after a time. They put us in a holding pattern that involved flying south down the Massachusetts coast, then flying back up again when a spot opened for our plane to land. So we got the grand tour of the Massachusetts coast before landing.
Customs went wonderfully smoothly, with very little line-waiting. The fellow stamped my passport after asking my reason for spending time in London. He inquired how my project had turned out and what food items I had with me (spices; very innocuous). He stamped my passport – bam – and Ryan and I proceeded to reclaim our baggage. My bag’s 80 lbs certainly did drag, but thankfully as I exited the terminal the Worcester Limo shuttle van pulled right up. I was the only customer and as soon as the driver loaded my bags into the back we took off for Worcester. He was a chatty driver, not in an annoying or creepy way, so the drive felt shorter than some of the long, silent Worcester-Boston journeys. Ian sat on the front steps of our new apartment as the van pulled up; I admit that my heart leapt to see him. I thanked the driver, let Ian take my really heavy bag, and went into our new first-floor apartment.
It was clean. Very. Ian did a magnificent job preparing it, and he proudly escorted me on the grand tour of Our Very Own Apartment. I felt (and feel) quite pleased at finally living roommate-free. We are accountable to each other and nobody else; we have privacy and lots of space. Ian had cleaned meticulously and the whole apartment gleamed in the bright natural light provided by our many large windows (yay!). I gave Ian the presents I had collected for him, and he particularly loved the Victorian-era wooden cribbage board. Then I took a shower to wash off all the travel-dirt and tiredness (the only disgusting part of the whole apartment: our shower curtain. Mildew covers it top to bottom in a gray/black haze, and I cannot feel clean showering with it), dressing up nicely at Ian’s request. He sat me down at the carefully-set table and prepared me a wonderful welcome home meal. We had broiled bread, salad, spaghetti, and brownies. He made everything but the browies immediately before serving me, and it was lovely. We danced in the open big space our apartment provides, and then he gave me my belated birthday gifts. Since he and my in-laws had bought them all in Maine, all but one was lobster related: I got a Welcome plaque with a lobster painted on it; lobster socks; a plush lobster; and a small bag of delicious Maine blueberries. After that we went to bed and Ian read aloud to me from a really terrible science-fiction romance novel until I finally fell asleep. It was a long day, but full of joy and lots of love at the end. I cannot imagine that any of the other people in my London group received such a carefully planned, perfectly executed welcome home party.
Sunday July 3: I woke up at 4:40 AM, of course, feeling it was 9:40. At 5:00 AM I got up and began unpacking some of the many boxes of my stuff. I set up my desk and computer, sorting and organizing. I started putting pictures and decorations on the walls, one of the only things Ian had failed to do during his bachelor tenure here. That took a long time. When Ian woke up I made a coffee cake incorporating some of the dried Maine blueberries — very tasty. At 9:50 Marlene, the Pastor’s wife, arrived to take us to church. She and the other passenger, Lee, greeted me with enough exuberance I wanted to sneak back to the apartment and hide. That set the tone for my return to First Alliance. People greeted me and commented on their p
leasure at seeing me again, and I nodded and smiled and returned appropriate comments. I talked very little about London, merely commenting on the trip’s overall loveliness and professing my great enjoyment of the whole experience.
I barely made it through the service. Compared to the Anglican and Catholic High Church Masses I became accustomed to, Sunday at First Alliance looks like a rowdy picnic. The four singers at First Alliance try hard but cannot compare to the 16-person professional choirs I heard in London. Similarly, the Pastor’s preaching made me cringe and ache (particularly the points where he railed against the government’s Godlessness. It seems many of the people at this church aren’t big fans of the separation of Church and State). But I made it through, only almost losing it when we took communion I received a piece of cut up tortilla as the Body of Christ. At least the service felt short compared to the longer, more formal ones I enjoyed in London.
After the service an older couple invited us to the Yankee Candle Extravaganza in Western Mass. I fell asleep on the long ride there. We ate at the Chandler Restaurant, where I enjoyed an interesting salad that included mandarin orange wedges, dried cranberries, almonds, and raspberry viniagerette (no I cannot spell that) dressing. For dessert Ian and I split a piece of chocolate-chip, chocolate-crust cheesecake. Quite tasty. Then we walked around the Disneyland of candle stores. Who would have thought what started out as a simple candle-selling operation would expand to include selling bathtubs, gargoyle statues, and Christmas ornaments? I found it quite tacky at times, particularly an area they called the Bavarian Village. But we wandered around and gawked at the vastness of the operation, and we did end up buying four dinky candles and two tapered candle holders since Ian had bought tapered candles for our dinner Saturday night, but found we had nothing in which to put them.
On the way back we stopped at the Sugarloaf Mountain (total elevation: 652 feet above sea level) scenic outlook. It provided sweeping views of the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, so I took lots of pictures. We also stopped at a grocery store called the Atkins Farms Country Market. There we purchased apples. Finally, at 7:00, Wendell and Marion dropped us off at our aparment. It was a long day, rather wasted in terms of its beautiful weather since we spent at least five hours driving in the car with the windows closed and the AC on. But Ian and I did enjoy ourselves, and the Yankee Candle store provided the kind of entertainment only an overdone, highly commercialized establishment can. After all that we laid low the rest of the evening, me putting up more decorations and Ian reading aloud from our crappy romance novel. Sleep came blessedly early, as did the morning.
Yep. I got up this morning at 5:20 AM. Too awake to sleep and too tired to do anything productive. Hence me finally updating my blog.