When I had barely got my feet under myself as an ultra shy freshman in high school, my parents announced with excitement that our family would be moving to England for six months. As I remember it, there was no lead-up to this announcement.
It was set in stone the minute it fell nonchalantly out of their mouths, their lips smiling in what seemed to me to be pure mockery of how it made me feel inside. Didn't they know I was painfully naive and insecure? Did they not realize that I had barely settled into school and made a few noble friends who I adored? I was barely starting to breathe let alone to thrive, and just like that they were going to snatch the rug right out from under me.
Knowing them, I know they did it lovingly, and although I'm sure they were aware of my sobs and wailing about the move, they knew what I know now: change is good.
But it took the "refiners fire" of living in England for six months to realize it.
I grew more in those six months than I think I grew the whole rest of my life up to that point put together.
Sure it was hard.
Sure it was uncomfortable. I cried every day as I feverishly wrote letters to my friends back home and listened to the "Stand Alone" cassette tape that they sent with me. I held on to every shred of home for dear life. I detested the brown school uniform I had to wear to Rosebury School for Girls and felt uncomfortable every single day. I longed for the freedom and safe harbor I had created back home.
But my older sister Saren and I were somehow allowed to explore London on our own. We knew "The Tube" like the back of our hands. Somehow those endless escalators bringing us down into the belly of the city and the warm wind announcing the arrival and departure of each train whisked in and out of the station to take us on a new adventure invigorated us.
I loved Picadilly Circus and shopping and all the connections we made through Victoria Station with it's wall of flipping departure, arrival and platform information.
And somehow, somewhere, something inside me started to wake up and uncurl from my burden of being displaced.
Somehow that city became "mine." And I survived those six months in spite of myself.
That time our family spent in England was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
England was the place I started to emerge from my shell of shyness. It was where I started to gain more confidence in myself.
Do you know why? It was because England was the first place where I learned, truly, that I could do hard things.
(Hence the reason I personally pine away to move to England...or China...or Singapore...or Australia...at least just for a little while. It made such a huge difference in my life I figure it will somehow miraculously do the same for my kids...much more about that back here.)
So, although we have been back a handful of times since that dreaded six-month stretch so long ago, it always feels incredibly rejuvenating to get back to that place I finally, reluctantly fell in love with.
Although we only had one day in the city, we utilized every minute of it.
Here we are at Victoria after our overnight flight:
I was a little sad that the old flipping letter/number display had been digitized. I loved hearing the whirr of those numbers change to announce a platform change or a new schedule.
We had a joyous reunion with my sister Saydi who is living over in London with her family for six months. (Yes, she's living the dream over there :)She was the best tour guide we could have ever asked for.
Our first stop was Buckingham Palace
Then we took this picturesque road...
...over to the Birdcage Walk:
...and then over toward Westminster Abbey
This is "Poet's Corner" where so many famous poets are immortalized.
I sure hope they never get rid of those things. I adore them.
Same with the taxi cabs. What's up with so many of them being all colorful now? They're supposed to be black. I guess I'm just such a sucker for tradition.
But I digress...on to Big Ben...
The London Eye
It didn't disappoint as far as I'm concerned.
We walked to Trafalgar Square to find it all fenced up ready for some sort of festival the next day. It's a good thing I'm tall so I could take this picture on my tippy-toes over the fences:
I just liked this picture of my sister and mom amidst the Londoners...trying to navigate us around.
We whisked into the The National Gallery and tried to hunt down my Mom's favorite picture there with no luck.
It was pouring with rain when we came out. That's the National Gallery behind us. Oh man we all love art so much I wish we had had more time in that place.
From Piccadilly we took a double-decker bus through the curvy streets down past Hyde Park...
More on that tomorrow.
I'm so grateful for a jam-packed day in that city that stole my heart in the midst of my homesick sorrow all those years ago.