Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Birthdays and English hospitality

Hosting people is a favorite. Hosting them in a country they’ve never been to or have only traveled to a time or two? Even better. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when she called. I didn’t really know her. We’d had a conversation at a family gathering or two. One phone conversation when she was in the thick of cancer and politics and life with a sick loved one. So I was surprised when she called and said that it was her birthday, and could she please spend it with us in England. Sure. Absolutely. See you soon. 
She arrived the day after we returned from Celle. A near-perfect vacation filled with good food and good people and good scenery and good culture and everything that is so wonderfully Italian. So I was primed to be hospitable.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Bring wellies I had recommended. She showed up with the world’s largest suitcase. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve got grace--it’s tricky to know what to pack when you’ve never really been somewhere before. (To be fair the same suitcase travelled back a few months later, but with everything she needed for herself plus her two kiddos). 
During the days we walked with Kelly and the dogs. Kelly can make anyone feel like an old friend rather than a stranger. We took the kids to school and my friends kissed her cheeks and made her feel at home--they’re good like that. In the evenings we sampled English beer--she’s a big fan and a bit of a connoisseur. We sat on the floor and talked and laughed and cried and discovered that we shared a mutual and somewhat odd and obscure favorite snack of popcorn with salt and brewer’s yeast. We talked. Then talked some more. Then talked and talked and talked a little more. 
She came for her birthday. So we gave her the choice of dinner locale--both pubs of course. One to drive to and one to walk to. We gave her a good-natured ribbing at her choice of footwear when she decided on the walk-to pub. Heels seemed a bit of an odd choice for a path through an ancient churchyard and behind the horse pastures and over rocks and mud. She’s appropriately stubborn and strong willed for a survivor. For a widow. For a single mom. So she stuck by her choice. And looked great. And didn’t complain once. And always wore wellies to the pub after that. 
It’s funny how a person can go from an acquaintance to close friend in only a week. I no longer disbelieve the possibility, but it still definitely surprises me. A year later, I’m homesick for the hospitality of the English countryside, and for my friend. My good friend. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Today it feels like Fall. Misty-rainy and overcast hoody weather. We traipsed off to school and back without the usual drenched-clothes get-me-to-the-shower-asap feeling as soon as I got home. After my appointment today I ran in for a Starbucks treat and oh so appropriately Pumpkin Spice Lattes made their yearly debut this week. Maybe it seems trifling or silly, but it awoke so many deep emotions in me I had to go to the car and listen to the rain and cry...
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the Starbucks in Idaho Springs on the way to or the way home from the mountains. Aspens in their full glory in September. Snow scenting the air in October. Crazy roads in November and December. Windshield time and holding hands and life-changing conversations.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Scott’s annual Fall Mix. Playing on Saturday mornings and in the car and weaving its way into an anthem for the coming year.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Rob gutting pumpkins on our back porch at the condo. Chili in the crockpot and gluten free pumpkin bars in the oven. Everything set up for the annual pumpkin carving extravaganza.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Race for the Cure with my sisters. Coming around the bend at Invesco Field and seeing thousands of women ahead and thousands stretched out behind. The pink shirted survivors dotted here and there and the bib on my back commemorating my own mom’s victory over breast cancer. 
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are finding out my gran died in the Jardins des Tuileries outside of the Louvre in Paris. A train home to London to discover our car stolen and our house ransacked. A flight to the US alone with two little boys and my sisters meeting me at the airport with just the right treat to cheer me up.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are rainy London days feeling homesick for Colorado and the Portobello Road Starbucks barista’s indignant exclamation of “Ew! No!” when I asked if they maybe? possibly? carried Pumpkin Spice flavoring in the UK.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the Colorado barista who wouldn’t sell Scotty any Pumpkin Spice syrup, but gave him a cup of it for free which he poured into a rubbermaid container and duck-taped close. It made it all the way to London without spilling and made my day!
But this year it was something different. The quintessential ‘Colorado Fall’ thing became an amalgamation of homesickness...a little puddle of sadness and loneliness in the Starbucks parking lot. The grey rain making me positively ache for England. For wellies and romps in the woods with Kelly. For pub walks with the gang. For cups of tea in Loulou’s living room and trips to London with umbrellas in tow. But then there was the crisp weather and pumpkin yumminess making me look very much forward to a Colorado Fall. The kind of Fall I’ve been pining for the last three years. To golden Aspens and hoodies and pumpkin carving and the fall mix. Homesick. For all of it. All because of a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
How about you? What makes you wax nostalgic?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Brunchish medicine

You know what is absolutely and wholly restorative? To body, mind, and soul? 


Brunch is a beautiful thing. Especially when eaten on a small neighborhood-joint patio with mismatched vintage furniture on an spectacular September-in-Colorado day. Especially whilst consuming a fresh squeezed grapefruit mimosa served in a cutie-pie vintage mini milk jug and sipped through a straw. Especially after strolling through a European-ish market searching for just the right table--all by oneself. Especially while friends who love your children nearly as much as you do volunteer to take the lot of them to the zoo. And especially when it follows an hour-long pick-up-where-you-left-off conversation with one’s best girlfriends who live halfway around the world and for whom you positively ache with loneliness. 

Brunch. It’s just the thing.


How about you? What’s been the surprisingly restorative medicine for you recently?