February 18th, 1992

February 18th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Mum and I are having the most fantastic time and today we went to the Rothschild Giraffe Centre, a place I’ve long longed to visit! From the pamphlet, we discovered that the Centre was founded by Jock Leslie-Melville, the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish Earl. Well, that was all Mum needed to hear before she started on about how proud she is to be Scottish (something I’ve never heard her express before!) From that point on, every other word she uttered was heavily punctuated with “ochs” and “ayes,” leaving Issac, the guide, looking quite bewildered!

Mum commented that the giraffe’s tongue felt like sandpaper and Issac was about to answer when he stopped and turned his attention to a woman who appeared a little out of breath from having climbed the stairs, to the feeding platform.

“Good afternoon,” he nodded, with a wide smile.

“Allow me,” she said, with just a hint of an American accent. The guide passed the bucket to her and with an easy manner, she continued feeding the giraffes with us and introduced herself as, “Betty.”

Betty was a mine of information and shared some fascinating facts about the Rothschild giraffes but she seemed especially interested in our Scottish ancestry and asked what brought us to Kenya.

“Karen’s getting married!” Mum gushed. “This is our last wee hurrah!”

Betty’s eyes widened. “Congratulations! You chose, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth to visit. Where will you be married?”

“In the States.” She looked surprised. “My fiancé is from Massachusetts.”

“Ah, New England,” she smiled. “A Summer wedding?”

I shook my head and tried not to laugh, “No, it’s eleven days from now!”

We continued chatting and by the time the bucket was empty, we’d learned that Betty was born in Maryland and shared with her (third!) husband, a great passion for animals and their wellbeing. Sensing she had more to impart, I wasn’t surprised when she asked if we’d like to join her for tea. Mum glanced at me with an, “It’s up to you,” expression.

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you but we have a driver waiting to take us to the Karen Blixen museum.”

“Karen Blixen was a woman ahead of her time,” she stated. “The museum is delightful, you must go and enjoy it but promise you’ll return and tell the giraffes all about your winter wonderland wedding.”

 

February 17th, 1992

February 17th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Taking my jump seat this morning for landing, all I could think about, as I looked down over the vast Kenyan plain, was the theme music to one of my favourite films; “Out of Africa.” I’d say Mum and I have seen it at least a dozen times and after I surprised her with a ticket to join me on this trip, we watched it again!

Mum got caught up in the throng of arriving passengers and Ian, the Captain, suggested the crew go ahead to the hotel, while he waited with me. At least an hour went by before Mum appeared, gushing over the “fantastic flight,” and how much she enjoyed being on the flight deck for landing.

Once in the taxi, headed to the hotel, I rested my head against the window and finally gave in to my weariness. Mum and Ian continued to chat like old friends while I dozed on and off, the symphonic sounds of John Barry’s romantic soundtrack floating through my head.

 

February 16th, 1992

February 16th, 1992

Flight from LHR – NBO

It’s crew rest time for me, with a cup of Earl Grey and a few delectables, pinched from the First Class galley, where Arianna and Aidan (sweet names for twins!) are working diligently, taking care of the VIP passengers, in particular, one Elizabeth McGarr, who is lapping up not only the attention but every morsel of fine food placed before her!

Seated in 1B, Mum was all smiles and looked right at home. We had a very quick chat but it goes without saying we have to be careful not to broadcast the fact Mum is travelling on a staff travel ticket I paid just over one hundred pounds for. The true cost of the seat Mum is occupying is at least thirty times that amount! Yes, First Class travel is exorbitant but oh, those chocolate biscuits!

 

February 15th, 1992

February 15th, 1992

At home, England

I should be packing for tomorrow’s trip but instead, I’ve been poring over a short story I wrote last night about a girl who, two weeks before her wedding, receives a Valentine card from the first boy she loved. Not wishing to upset her Mother, the girl folds the card in half and stuffs it into the back pocket of her jeans, before returning to the kitchen, where her Mother has gone to great lengths to make the day special.

Over breakfast the girl and her Mother talk about their upcoming trip to Kenya and the animals they hope to see. Feeling like the card is boring a hole in her back pocket, the girl has a strong desire to run upstairs to her room and tear it open but her Mother has a lot to say, including how sad she feels because her daughter’s fiancé failed to send her a card.  The girl makes a poor attempt at hiding her disappointment by reminding her Mother said fiancé is somewhere in the middle of the ocean but this seems to fall on deaf ears and the Mother continues to question why the fiancé didn’t “Plan ahead.”

After what feels like an eternity, the Mother finally stops with the questions and the girl is able to excuse herself. With a strong desire for privacy and no lock on her bedroom door, she escapes to the bathroom, where she perches on the edge of the old bathtub.

Slowly and deliberately, she opens the envelope and removes the card. Her breathing is out of whack and in an attempt to steady herself, she takes a deep breath before opening the card. Her eyes move to the all too familiar handwriting and the word, “Love” appears several times. Slowly tracing the letters of his name, she reads, not for the first time, the PS; “It’s not too late to change your mind.”

That’s as far as I got with the story. At least for now.

 

February 14th, 1992

February 14th, 1992

At home, England

It’s hearts and flowers day and as much as I hate to admit it, I enjoy Valentine’s Day, so in that vein, I got up early to catch the postman.

Mum was in the kitchen, the radio set to some station playing mushy love songs, with stories of lost/unrequited/forever love. The table was set with the crisp linen tablecloth I found in Bermuda, over which Mum had strewn chocolate hearts. In the middle of the table was a vase filled with red roses, next to which sat a bright pink envelope bearing my name.

“Is this a special occasion?” I joked.

“T’is, miss,” Mum sang, spooning cheesy scrambled eggs onto my plate. “And I got your favourite bread,” she said, pointing to the stack of toast neatly lined up in the toast rack we barely ever use.
“Lovely, thank you Mum. Should I open the card?”

“Aye, go ahead,” she nodded, sitting across from me.

On the front of the card was a teddy bear, his arms laden with flowers and chocolates and the caption; To My Favourite Person. I smiled and opened the card, inside of which Mum had written; “You’ve been my wee Valentine forever and soon you’ll be married to William, living many, many miles away so I wanted to make this last one together special. I love you with all my heart.”

“Aw, Mum,” I uttered, my eyes beginning to well. “I feel horrible, I didn’t get you anything.” She was about to respond but we were interrupted by Tini who let out a loud bark as he scampered out from underneath the table.

“Shhhhh, Tini, it’s just the postman,” Mum said, pushing back her chair.

“Stay where you are, Mum, I’ll get it.”

Tini obediently followed me out into the hall, to the front door, where I picked up the post that had landed on the carpet and flicked through the small pile, looking for William’s handwriting. There were several bills and a card addressed to me but it wasn’t from William, it was from Ben.

 

February 12th, 1992

February 12th, 1992

At home, England

Just got home from a lovely evening chez H & M, where we ate the most delicious curry prepared by Uncle Harry. Whenever I eat such a culinary marvel I make a little promise to myself to learn how to cook but as Pamsy is fond of saying; “Karen can barely boil an egg!”

Dad and Harry had us in stitches with tales of their youthful shenanigans back in Glasgow during their single days, but I suspect, in the presence of Suzi and Christina’s young ears, they only scratched at the surface.

My upcoming nuptials were well celebrated and I only wish William could’ve been there to join in the fun. Harry said it’s lucky we’re not getting married in Scotland, otherwise Dad would have to rob a bank to pay the bar bill!

On several occasions, usually after one too many wee drams, Dad’s been known to reminisce about some of the girls he dated but those outbursts usually end with Mum whacking him on the arm and rolling her eyes as she exclaims, “Stop talking rubbish!”

Aside from William’s previous very short marriage, I don’t know much about who he dated but at this point, does it really matter? I’ve shared a few things with him about David and a couple of snippets about Ben but where do you draw the line on how much you divulge?

 

February 11th, 1992

February 11th, 1992

Night flight from BOS – LHR, as a passenger

Homeward bound, but in a sense, I feel like I now have two homes, albeit three thousand miles apart.

Those incredible but too short days with William were really what I needed and I’m leaving with a much better sense and acceptance, not to mention excitement, of the commitment we’re about to make to each other in just over two weeks, arghhhhh!

I know two of the girls on tonight’s crew, hence this very nice seat in 3A! I’m very aware that the time will come when I’ll no longer have access to such perks so I’m going to make the most of them while I can. I don’t know the exact price of a First Class ticket from Boston to London but not even halfway through the flight, I suspect I’ve already exceeded it, with the amount of Champagne I’ve consumed!

 

February 10th, 1992

February 10th, 1992

Apartment by the sea, Massachusetts

I’m here alone tonight and when I say alone, I mean alone, as in the only person I know in this part of the world, is gone. William’s home time was cut short due to the crisis in Haiti escalating and he was given just three hours’ notice to report to the boat.

Watching William don his uniform, I couldn’t help but think of his role in the horrific tv images of people being pulled from the water. He hardly ever mentions his work and I haven’t figured out if that’s because he’s used to it or because he’s able to detach from it. When he walked out the door, I felt so sad and tried to hold it together but it didn’t take long for the tears to show up.

The day dragged on and on and I really wanted to leave but according to the duty manager at the airport, tonight’s flights are heavily overbooked. Staff travel is great when the flight is wide open but when it’s busy it can be a bit of a nightmare getting on. There’s no public transportation here, nor do I have a vehicle so it’s not as if I can freely go back and forth.

The wind is howling, it’s pouring and I’m thinking of William and how long it’ll be before he get a chance to get out of uniform and get some rest.

 

February 9th, 1992

February 9th, 1992

Apartment by the sea, Massachusetts

There are times when it seems the stars align in your favour and that’s how it feels being here. Had William’s work mission not changed, he’d still be out at sea and I’d be home in England, feeling despondent, with no way of contacting him. It’s during moments like that when a phone call, say from someone like, say, Ben (ok, enough, I know!) can take the evening (and maybe even life!) down a totally different path. However, nothing of the sort happened and here I am, living each moment with William in what feels like our little love cocoon, a place I’m willing to leave only when we run out of food!

I guess some things are just meant to be.

 

February 8th, 1992

February 8th, 1992

Night flight from JFK – LHR – Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

We’ll be landing at Heathrow in just over three hours and shortly after that I’ll be boarding yet another flight back to America, only this time as a passenger.

I woke up feeling a little groggy so I forced myself to go out for a walk but with it being so cold, it wasn’t long before I was back at the hotel. I crawled into bed and turned on the tv but I find American tv so annoying with ads what seems like every few minutes, so I shut it off and picked up my book (The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, so good!)

I couldn’t seem to concentrate and found myself reading the same line over and over so I gave up on that and thought I’d try and sleep off the tequila induced headache which wasn’t quite bad enough to be considered a full-blown hangover.

After a short stint tossing and turning I gave up on the notion of a nap and took a very long way too hot shower. With the headache gone, I felt a little more with it and considered popping down to the deli for tea and a muffin.

Perching on the edge of the bed, I slipped on my ankle boots and jumped when the phone rang.

“Shit,” I mouthed, expecting it to be notice of a delay to the flight but instead, it was Christopher. He said he was jealous of my clear head and vowed never to drink tequila again! We chatted for a little while before he had to go and meet Laurie off the train. She lives in Connecticut so they only get to see each other at the weekend. Reading between the lines, I sometimes get the impression their relationship is quite formal in the way they communicate and spend their time together but who knows.

By the time we hung up, I’d lost interest in going out so I thought I’d ring the apartment and check the answering machine for any messages (one of perks of being in the States.) Expecting to hear my voice on the recorded message, I almost fainted when William answered! Seems there was a change to the itinerary, although I don’t think that’s what they call it in the Coast Guard! William will be home for a few days before heading back out to sea, so I’m going to spend my days off with him.

Flying across the Atlantic twice in less than twenty-four hours will no doubt leave me feeling wrecked but it’ll be worth it to spend some time with my soon to be husband. Writing that leaves me with a big smile on my face.