Tuesday, July 24, 2007

First I vanish and then I babble (which is worse?)

We're nearly a week and a half into the summer holiday here, and I'm so disoriented and thrown off of my regular routine that it's taking a supreme effort for me to even figure out what day it is. Could I perhaps pretend not to realize that it's been nearly 2 weeks since my last blog post?

In lieu of blogging, I spent the past eight days enjoying house guests; my mother and aunt arrived last Monday for a visit which turned out to be the perfect bridge from school year to summer holiday. (I realize that the word "holiday" should in theory be superfluous here, but as July in England is turning out to resemble a dreary early spring far more than anything else, I feel the need to qualify the whole "summer" thing a bit. This is indeed our July and August school break. But it aint no summer.)

It is one of those blogging frustrations that the most things happen when there is the least time to write about them. I was much too busy enjoying my mom and aunt's visit to actually sit down and blog about it while it was in progress. Now that my house is once again quiet and all of those sheets and towels are washed, I'm a victim of too much time passed. I want to play catch up here, but instead I'm sitting here flummoxed by how to capture a few of the past week's memories for posterity without inadvertently writing the Not-So-Great British Novel in the process.

Definitely worth a few words was our trip to Covent Garden last week, where Julia inadvertently ended up the star of a street performer's show. He pulled her up to assist him with a trick and I guess he found her quirky combination of serious demeanor and willingness to play along engaging, because he ended up keeping her up there for the next 20 minutes or so. She was darling; intent and focused and poised while at the same time seemingly unaware of the growing audience of spectators cheering her on. Evan even got a small bit part in the action, which he enjoyed heartily. His deep belly chuckles (obviously the more expected response from a child onstage) were quite the amusing contrast with Julia's determined stoicism. My mother had her little video recorder with her, so we even have a portion of the performance recorded for posterity. My favorite part of the clip, however, has nothing to do with either of my kids. It is the spot where the recording begins abruptly, partway through the action, and you can hear my mother say "oh damn, I pressed the wrong button. I thought I was taping but I don't think I actually got any of that." And then you hear me moan "Moooooom...." There's nothing quite like capturing family dynamics at their finest for posterity.

I always see my kids and our surroundings with different eyes when we've got guests in town and this visit was no exception. Both kids proved themselves to be true city kids at last as they ran happily through town, stopping appropriately at street corners, pointing out important London landmarks (or at least those that are important to the 3-5 year old set) and conducting an exhaustive tour of playgrounds and ice cream distribution points. Evan taught my mom and aunt about the London bus system, Julia gleefully explored the National Gallery with her two enthusiastic visitors in tow and both kids were able to make a critical comparison between the crepe we enjoyed on the High Street and the ones they'd enjoyed in Paris (final analysis: they each got their own in Paris, and I made them share here, so the Paris crepes win because quantity is far more important than quality). It's still a little mind blowing to me that I suddenly have such worldly kids, but it was fun to watch my mother and aunt enjoy my family's new found Britishness.

My biggest regret about the time we're spending in London is the distance it puts between my kids and their extended family, and visits like this one are always a little bittersweet as we try stock up on memories by cramming huge doses of "regular life" into short periods of time. But I think we hit just the right combination of entertainment and comfortable companionship this time. When asked what their favorite part of the visit had been, my kids debated for a while between several London sightseeing outings before eventually deciding that baking cookies at home had actually been the most fun. I'm so grateful that they're still able to make that kind of everyday memory with their grandmother even during this anything-but-ordinary period in our lives.

It's always a little sad when guests leave. It's nice to have things back to normal, I suppose, but I also feel the hole that's left behind when the people I love depart quite acutely for a few days. With no regular school year schedule to fall back into and less familiar friends in town to ground us, I suspect I'll be floundering for a few days as we officially begin the Season Formerly Known as Summer. (Seriously. I know I'm harping on this. But people, it has been cold.) Fortunately, we leave for Stockholm in less than a week. There's nothing like a summer vacation to get our spirits up again. Except given what the weather is like is Eastern Sweden right now... "nothing like a summer vacation" may turn out to be the operative words here. Do you think they make seasonal affective disorder lamps for use during this time of year?


Blogger Iota said...

I once read an article about how children in Siberia are stripped to their underpants and made to stand in front of special lamps during the winter, to boost their vitamin D levels. So those lamps do obviously exist (even if you have to source them in Siberia).

I love reading your mirror blog. We too had grandparents visiting at the beginning of the summer vacation, a good bridge over the change of routine from school to vacation, as you say. We tried to show the grandparents the sights, but also give them a flavour of everyday life. And one of the highlights for my kids was making flapjack with Granny.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Kristy said...

Certainly, vanishing is worse than your kind of "babble". What a delightful visit, it sounds!

I do "pity" you your lack of a real summer. But I think you're on to something...perhaps this quirky aspect of the typical Brit's environment alone has much influence on their overall character. Not a jibe, not a pejorative...just...an observation.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Mom (aka Grandma) said...

I know I've had a good dose of "ordinary life" when I return home with a small Triceritops in my purse. Please assure Evan that I will take good care of his dinosaur for him.
For the record--the crepe was yummy--and for me, made even better because I got to share it with my wonderful daughter and her lovely children, sitting on a
bench in London in a gentle rain.

12:20 PM  
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