England Part X

The hug goodbye with Diana was sweet and genuine and touched with sadness because I think we had the same thought: we would never see each other again. Tassie said a warm and quick goodbye and went off to work on an upcoming art show due to open in a couple of days.

I tried to focus on the present, which was Ann and Tiggy at Diana’s door, ready to steal me away.

So far my friend Ann and I had shared wine, fish and chips, old memories from our childhoods, and my iPad photos at the table reserved for locals at The Anchor in Walberswick. Now Tiggy grabbed my bag, placed it in the trunk of his fancy car and off we went towards their 300 year-old family farm.

I fell in love with the farm before I even saw it because, as soon as we turned off the main road, there was that peaceful feeling that comes with the privacy of miles of rolling hills of wheat…just like the vast calmness of my uncle’s farm in East Berlin, Pennsylvania.

And then after some minutes, their farmhouse–just as I thought it might be: large, rustic, made comfortable for living; containing the stories of generations of family members.

In I went to their kitchen, up I went to a guest bedroom, down I went onto the soft white eiderdown comforter on the bed, and snooze I did like I had slept over a hundred times. Good thing I did, too, because before long I was whisked out to Ann and Tiggy’s car to meet both their grown daughters and six of their grandchildren, with an age range from about six to sixteen. The fourteen year-old engaged me in a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird. “So what do you like about it?” I asked him. “The trial scene. It’s quite interesting, really.” I smiled to myself on that one. The husband of one of the daughters, a principal of an elementary school, engaged me with conversation about the American educational system. “What’s this No Child Left Behind iniative?” he asked me. “Oh,” I replied, “a system of dumbing down vitality in learning for any kid with smarts.” It doesn’t work. Everybody hates it; it forces teachers to teach to tests.”

Back at the farm, while Tiggy made a Thai chicken dinner, Ann and I talked about our friendship, “It was sad and lonely for me,” Ann said, “when you went back to America; all my good friends in the village left.” We talked about my cousin Annie, also her good friend. “Annie and I used to go over to your grandmother and Anna Freud’s house to have dinner,” Ann told me. “I don’t remember there being much conversation. I also went with Annie to stay at your grandmother and Anna Freud’s house in London several times.” “You did!” I said shocked. “That’s two more times than I ever did. I was allowed to stay there once when I came from America to go to my father’s funeral. Let me tell you, it was weird!” We laughed, sharing some of the same wacko “Freudian” history. With my seat at the dining room table facing the kitchen, I could see that Tiggy was all ears.

Next morning, Ann looked through old photographs and found some of her marriage to Tiggy. Ah, that was the way I remembered Ann…and that village scamp!

Also, among the photos was one of her and Tiggy with some of their grandchildren when they were little kids.

This photo brought home the way Ann’s and my histories had diverged; Ann lived pretty much in the same area of England her whole life, married young, stayed married and lives a stable life rich with seven grandchildren nearby. I, on the other hand, was born in Johnson City, TN, lived in Hopewell, NJ. Riverdale, NY, London, UK, Princeton, NJ, Beloit, WI, Washington, DC, New York City, NY, Titusville, NJ, and Lawrence, KS, flitted from one marriage to the next until THE ONE (the story of which is in my memoir–Jewels That Speak), had two kids with one husband–not with THE ONE, was a teacher of gifted kids, wrote, and was always searching for answers…answers…answers.

Soon enough a baby grandson arrived for a day of grandparent care. We said a long goodbye chatting about a possible visit to the States while I brought my clean laundry in from their outdoor laundry line and folded it, and chatting some more while Ann gave the baby a stroll down the farm lane in hopes of settling him down for a nap.

An agreement between Ann and Tiggy had been made. She was to stay with the baby; he was to drive me to the station. So once more Tiggy swung my suitcase into the trunk of his fancy car. I settled into the passenger seat next to him and he drove off carefully but fast, like most men who have been in “the carriage trade” and know and love cars.

I don’t like saying goodbye, in fact, I hate it, so I asked Tiggy not to wait for my train–which he would have done because he is a gentleman now, no longer the village scamp…although he has kept that mischievous twinkle in his eye.

The last thing I said to him as he took off was, “Tell Ann I love her.”