First of all you need to know, I very rarely cry. So the idea of me crying three times while in London (and while having a wonderful time!) was a very strange thing.
Here's what happened. We woke up on our first morning and headed out to see the sights. We took the underground and ended up somewhere near the London Eye. (Actually, I can't remember exactly how we got there.) We turned a corner and all of a sudden, I saw Big Ben and the House of Parliment, my first real 3-d look of the London I have always wanted to see.
As I gazed across the Thames at these beautiful ancient buildings, I suddenly realized I was really, really there; a place that I have wanted to go since I was twelve years old, a place that was a special haven for my grandparents, a favorite painting spot of my Dad's, and the setting for a dozen of my favorite movies. And the tears came.
I explained in my last blog that my grandparents and my Dad took my older brother and sister to London when they were sixteen. I didn't get to go because my grandmother died when I was fifteen and the trips to England stopped for a while.
My grandparents weren't my real flesh and blood relatives. My Grandpa, Frank Rice, a brilliant man, was my Dad's shop teacher in middle school. He was tall and skinny, and from my earliest memories, carried a cane. (He had many to choose from! canes with parrot heads, canes with swords and guns built into them, dog heads, too many types to recount here!) When he sat down he would cross his right leg over his left and wrap his right foot around the back of his left leg. That always fascinated me.
He was married to a wonderful sophisticated lady named Anna who worked as a switchboard operator for the phone company when the phone company was young. There was never a hair out of place and she was always impeccably dressed.
My dad became their "yard boy" during his teen years, and they developed a great father/son relationship. My grandfather taught him all about stocks and bonds and saving money.
When my dad married and had children, Frank and Anna Rice became our grandparents, as real as any flesh and blood ones could be. They were part of every holiday growing up, and many days in between.
I have no idea when they started taking their trips to England, but I know they took many, and while they were there, they made friends. That's just the way they were, talking to people on the street, at historic sites, and in the castles, sharing their knowledge and learning more by asking questions of the people who lived the history, so to speak. They became particularly close to someone at Windsor castle, I can't remember who. (I'll have to ask my siblings- they may remember).
Every time they returned from England, they would bring us something. I had forgotten that until I was searching for souveniers in a shop one day while I was there. I saw "tea towels" with all sorts of british regalia on them and remembered that we had gotten a number of those over the years.
So, I'm telling you all of this to try to explain that when I walked around the corner and saw Big Ben, I was looking at a place that had been in dozens of family photo albums my whole life.... and I was really, really there... and I cried.