When I was accepted to teach English in Germany, I told mom to get a passport so that she could visit. If you hear her tell the story, it might go something along the lines of, “Kensley is going to Europe, Lord help us all. I need a passport when she ends up in jail, I can fly over and bail her out.” You make pick which story you choose to believe…
I am a self-proclaimed master of finding cheap flights. There was the round trip flight from Detroit to Boston for $64 that Kalyn and I went on. There’s the round trip flight for a friend from Frankfurt to Chicago for $380.00, and of course, my flight here for $250.00. Now, to make these trips successful, there is often waiting, and oddly-timed flights, and some transportation specialties such as taking buses overnight. Since I can sleep anytime, anywhere, anyplace, I don’t have a problem with this. Mom however, was not blessed with this special sleeping gene – I often thank God for inheriting my father’s ability to sleep (THANKS DAD!) I found some affordable flights but they were as I described before – complicated and ill-timed. Alas, mom was able to find a special from ATL to Manchester and so we met and stayed with our lovely hosts, The Braithwaites – Some of Mimi and Pappaw’s friends!
The original plan was to go straight home after the airport because we knew mom would be a bit tired from her journey – and rightfully so. Mom’s rule is to never go anywhere unprepared…Mom also has an uncanny ability to attract the most unpleasant of people on trips. We have the Stevey plane incident of 1998 (You know where the mom made her daughter spit out her gum and give it to Little Stevey because Little Stevey wanted some gum. Oh yes, you read that correctly – we like to call that LOUD -and inefficient – PARENTING,) We have the countless church trips and it seems no matter where she sat there was a child…um shall we say getting sick… and many other examples. So I waiting in gleeful impatience to hear what sort of calamity awaited this particular adventure. Is that bad? I’m sorry, but my mother has this way of telling stories that has you just bent over doubled and I’m sure I can’t do it justice, so please just ask her. However, she came off the plane with a light smell of Vick’s Vapor rub…. and so she had been seated next to a couple who apparently hadn’t bathed any time in the last year…or two. And so she grabbed her Vick’s Vapor rub (she was prepared,) and placed it under her nose to try and rid the area of the stench reeking from these people. All the while the plane was playing it’s own version of bumper cars with the air while crossing the Atlantic in the middle of the storm. Needless to say, mom was a little green coming off but I was so happy to see her.
As we were on the way home, Mr. Braithwaite asked us if we knew Elizabeth Gaskell…I mean do we know Elizabeth Gaskell? Cranford, North and South, Wives and Daughters. Just to die for. If you asked, I couldn’t recall the number of countless rainy days that we sat around drinking tea and reading her books or coming together as a family to watch these shows. The books and the BBC mini series are exceptional and so we detoured to Knutsford which is the small town Cranford is based off of. The town also held a small restaurant that my grandfather told us we had to try the salmon from – and so we got a bit to be had with dinner the next night.
For dinner that night, we went into the city square. There were crosses that were from the 9th century – Unreal!
I had the lamb for dinner which absolutely melted in my mouth. It was accompanied by delicately stacked potatoes and sprinkled with a mixture of vegetables. I was completely and utterly satisfied and stuffed. Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing real pants or I probably would have burst out of them….but then we saw Sticky Toffee Pudding on the menu. I had NO ROOM for this but I was in England and how can you not try that? So I snuck away upstairs to “go to the bathroom,” where I managed to squeeze in a couple hundred jumping jacks so I could justify having this dessert. Yes, you read that right, and yes, I realize I’m am often ridiculous at times…ignore it. If you could have tasted the dessert you would have done the EXACT. SAME. THING. Oh my word that was the best thing I have EVER eaten. Mom and I almost considered licking the plate. I couldn’t move. And so I slept and dreamt of sugar plum fairies – Tchaikovsky and all. Maybe that’s my conscious telling me to finally go see the Nutcracker live. It’s my all-time favorite piece of work, yet I’ve never seen it live, neither the ballet or the symphonic work and that’s slightly shameful.
The next morning, we woke up to the smell of fresh croissants from a local bakery! Afterwards, I was encouraged to take a walk in the garden to which I was met with tears from laughing so hard. The Braithwaite’s are well-traveled and have all sorts of little treasures lying around that house. However, I was not expecting to be met with a life-size ceramic cow.
As you can see, our relationship developed rather quickly. Usually I’m a little more guarded, but I was just so taken. HA! With happy hearts and happy bellies we journeyed to to the center of town where there was a small market. We tasted cheese, and jellies, and sipped on warm Earl Grey tea (my favorite,) and enjoyed each other’s company.
Later, we went into Chester and just danced our way through the rain. We enjoyed a lunch of Fish and Chips followed by an afternoon of sightseeing and window shopping.
Perhaps a better title for this post might have been, “Walking in the footsteps of my childhood.” Because, in fact, I was literally walking in the footsteps of the characters that my childhood depended on. I was Emma, I was Lizzy, I was little Molly Gibson. But, I like alliteration and so the Mom, Manchester, and Meeting had to stay. On Sunday, following a gorgeous service in a small Anglican church, we when to Chatsworth House where it is said that Jane Austen based her image of Pemberley. Jane Austen is the creator of dreams for every young girl. She empowers the strong-willed, gives courage to the meek, and teaches you to never settle. I like to think I owe her thanks for my intermittent quick wit.
As we approached Pemberley, or so I will now and always refer to it as, I could not help but be transported to another time. I was Elizabeth Bennet, quietly regretting my flippant manner and sharp tongue in awe of the beautiful home that belonged to the handsome and mysterious, Mr. Darcy.
Pemberley was decorated for Christmas, only adding to the magic before us. Are there words to describe the years of history we encountered? Not unless you are prepared to have me read of the Oxford Dictionary definitions of speechless and each of it’s synonyms. Mom was as giddy as a child the night before Christmas.
In each room, we were greeted by a historian dressed in the style of the period. They were able to personalize stories about the family to each of us based on interest and background. The grandeur is overwhelming at times. The stories, the architecture, the furniture all culminating to create our own fairy tale, if only for an hour or two.
That night we went to an Authentic pub! I finally got to meet the Braithwaite’s daughter and mom finally got to be reunited with her friend! They were some of the most lovely people I’ve ever encountered. We were showered with love and generosity from the moment they picked us up from the airport. I am so grateful to them for opening up their home even if we ran them out of their internet (SO SORRY ABOUT THAT!)
Our time in Manchester was magical and the perfect beginning to mom and daughter being reunited in Europe.
I hope y’all had a wonderful and blessed day.
War Eagle, Go Blue, and Go Noles!