It has been the summer of transformation. Asher is taller than I am now. His voice has morphed into a peculiar timbre that is neither of boy nor of man and begs to be tuned. Levi is also delighted that he has discovered proof positive pubescence on his person. And Gabriella and I have successfully and happily traveled internationally with our children, a feat we thought reserved for other families with accommodating children, children who enjoy exploring, learning…and walking.
We traveled to London for 2 weeks as a gift to Asher for his Bar Mitzvah. He had no interest in a party; no time for glow-sticks, chocolate fountains, or suspiciously enthusiastic DJs and dancers. It was his choice to visit the city where he spent the first 2½ years of life, and we were thrilled. It just so happens that I abhor party-planning, and also, it had been far too long since I’d been back to Blighty.
We landed in London in 1999 with the news that John F. Kennedy Jr. had gone missing. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” said the taxi driver transporting us from Heathrow to our temporary corporate housing. “Not like he was royal or nufingk.” We sat quietly, too tired to engage after our long flight. “You know what the difference is between summer and winter in England?” he asked. “In the summer, the rain is warm.” That was our welcome.
It took us a few months to settle in. We needed to a find a flat. I needed to find a job. We needed to get over our fear of the compact washer/dryer all-in-one machine that lived in the kitchen. Eventually, we found our stride. We worked. We traveled. We made friends. We got married. We had Asher. If it weren’t for a job opportunity in NYC in 2006, we would have stayed. Instead, we moved back to the U.S. when Asher was 2½, and Levi was a mere bun-in-oven. Suffice it to say, we were super jazzed about a trip back – until we thought about it. How would we do with our teen & tween? Would they bicker and complain constantly? Would we want to kick them in the shin every time they bickered and complained? Would they have any appreciation for traveling to a foreign land? Would we regret taking this trip?
I needed to have words with Asher.
“There will be sight-seeing and tours and you’ll have to engage with our old friends beyond shrugging and grunting at them,” I told him.
“Mm,” he answered, which is Asher for “I shall comply with your terms of travel.”
“If you don’t do a little research and give us a list of top 10 things you want to do and see, we will plan the entire trip with things Mommy and I want to do.”
“Mm hm,” he answered, which is Asher for “The thought of doing research makes me sick to my stomach, but I don’t care for the alternative, so I shall compile a list of preferred activities.”
In the end, we all got to do what we wanted to do, and we didn’t mind the things we didn’t want to do – well some of us minded less than others. Did the boys bicker and complain? Yes. Did we want to kick them in the shin every time they bickered and complained? Yes. Did they appreciate being in a foreign land? They did, though they didn’t appreciate walking more than they’ve walked in the entirety of their lives. Did we regret taking this trip? Best thing we’ve ever done.
We must thank our generous hosts, Denise & Fiona, for welcoming us and making us feel at home while we took over their house and for giving us invaluable travel tips!
Thank you to our friends Hanan and Shamim for the best Palestinian Bar Mitzvah party ever at their very own fantastic restaurant Tabun Kitchen in Soho AND for feeding me my favorite dish until my body could not make room for one more bite. Stupid body! Still dreaming of malukhiah.
And we need to say to the friends we didn’t get to see this time around, we’ll be back!