London. Husband waiting in his usual place at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. Eldest son and I nearly ran him over with love and hugs and bags. It had been nearly four weeks and the first thing I always do is bury my head in the crook of his neck. I sort of melt there. We went straight home and as I walked down the lane where we live, random daffodils had popped up in the golf course’s outer lawn. Always a Spring surprise to see where they end up. I pushed the gate open to my house and wow, the magnolia tree in front was bursting with its pink petals on every branch as if it wanted to say ‘welcome home’. It was late evening and the sun was beginning to set so all the green was golden lit. I’ve traveled to many places in the world but nowhere is as stunning as England when Spring arrives.
The week. From the moment go, Husband’s film Killing Bono dominated our every hour. And we loved it. Champagne! The studio assigned a driver to ‘us’ and seriously, once you’ve gone chauffeur you never want to go back. If ever we had the money… a ridiculously fabulous luxury. One night when son and Husband were in Leicester Square doing a press Q & A with Ben Barnes (actor in film) a group of screaming girls surrounded them outside (well, son, was next to Ben, who was being surrounded) and the driver flew the door open to son, yelled ‘get in, get in’, son jumped into a moving Mercedes and they sped off as if he was Justin Bieber! Anthony, the driver, played the part of rock and roll family driver with precision and just enough of a wink that we all nearly believed in our celebrity status.
There were film events all week. The London premiere, publicity nights and in the middle of it all, a trip to Belfast to open their film festival. Husband is from Belfast and it was a real ‘coming home’ experience as the film was shot on its streets, and several of the talent who made it and financed the film are from Northern Ireland. The accent gets me every time, not a word do I understand, but the people there are always warm and giving. We stayed in a hotel that boasted that it was the most bombed building in all of Europe and then our suite was named ‘The Titanic’. Hmmm. Not a huge sense of comfort. The Titanic was built in Belfast and as the saying goes there, “It was fine when it left!”
Husband gave a speech at the festival about how proud he was to help contribute to building an industry of creativity there and have the world know Belfast for its art instead of its troubles. I watched our son, watch his dad, and knew we had made the right decision to bring him. The week whirled by with activity and we were a real threesome riding every high together.
My son had a funny occurrence at his old school. He went in for lunch with his mates one day and got notably mobbed, which made his rock star status feel all the more real. And then he went into the cafeteria. One of his old teacher’s saw him and stopped him before he entered the school dinners line. “Are you back?” he inquired. “No, sir, just here for lunch to say hello to everyone,” he replied. The teacher looked him up and down. “Well then, tie up your laces and put on your jacket, you look like a surfer.” And with that, he pushed him through the line. So English! Forget the ‘how are you?’ ‘so great seeing you!’ ‘we missed you!’ remarks. Just cut your hair Hamm.
I had my own strange, personal moments. Even though my life here feels very much mine, there were subtle changes, differences that I noted. Sitting with a group of friends and recognizing a small but not insubstantial shift in relationships; realizing I didn’t share a common opinion about an issue anymore; my favorite chair aged just a little bit more; my plant died; a boy I know grew a few more inches and now is obsessed with girls and my postman is new. Small things, silly things some of them, but all of it was real. Life evolves as it should it’s just more obvious when you’ve been away.
By Friday I was exhausted and emotional. I had done hair and make-up solidly all week and was so over being glamorous. How the It girls do it night after night, hats off. One major tip was planning the outfits ahead of time. By the fourth night I literally threw on the outfit labeled ‘fourth night’ and got ready in five minutes. What made me laugh was the fifth night wasn’t planned and it took me hours to figure out what shloppy top to put on. However, I couldn’t wait to stop being a slave to my blow dry and stay home this night. A group of teenagers from the Matthews clan went to opening night at the local cinema taking son and his friends – who had to pose as slightly older, hilarious -whilst their parents popped vintage bubbles. Expectations ran high all week and I usually don’t allow myself to get too overwhelmed either way. But how often do you get the chance to party all week and lift the trophy at the end?
Eldest son missed the noise of his brothers by Sunday. An unexpected bonus of our trip is his realization that he’s lucky to have his brothers, however hard puberty makes their existence annoying at times. I missed them too, and the normal flow of all things tangible. Waiting for reviews and numbers to make you feel a success or a failure sucks, really. No better literary way to say it and in a way, I was grateful to get back to what I know defines me.
Being the giving person that I am, I shared my rare Upper Class seat with my son for ten hours – they actually let him lie there with me the whole time. I couldn’t even say ‘sorry darling, I’d let you stay, but…’. Oh well. The discomfort was outweighed by the smile on his face when dinner arrived. We landed to signs, balloons and flowers from the other three. I swear the all looked older, and taller. Ten gold stars for the nanny and a trip to Jerry’s deli for matzaball soup was seriously in order. Home. From home to home.