The first time I heard the surname “Augustine,” I thought it was about the prettiest name I had ever heard.
Little did I know that it would one day become my own. And even less did I know, once I married my Augustine nearly 3 decades ago, where life with him would lead me.
Our first Big Augustine Adventure was the move from a little town in Kansas to the “Big City,” by which I mean Tulsa; it was about as big as either of us had experienced. Hubby drove the small U-Haul loaded with all our worldly goods and I followed in his gold Trans Am, pregnant, nervous, and very, very young. We arrived in Tulsa as the sun was setting in rush hour; both of us were thoroughly unnerved by the complexity of “big city” traffic. Hubby was starting his new job, fresh out of University, with Standard Oil Company (Amoco). This same company later facilitated our moves to the even larger Houston and larger still, London.
If you had told me back in 1985 where our Big Augustine Adventures would take us over the years, I would never have believed you.
The day we boarded the plane in Houston for life in London was harrowing. We had sold our suburban house on a Wednesday, and were departing the country on Saturday. Needless to say, this called for a lot of scrambling.
Once our entire life was packed up in paper and cardboard and loaded into a sea container, I then spent the day cleaning our already fairly clean house. I have this little OCD thing going on: NOBODY will be cleaning up my dust bunnies or scrubbing those water stains off the tile where the washing machine used to be! The house is not clean until it is – well, CLEAN. As in spotless. Every ceiling fan, skirting board and spindle was dust-free.
I was, however, thoroughly exhausted.
Between moving and cleaning, we had no less than 3 going away parties to attend… a congregation barbecue at the Gator preserve the previous weekend, a private one on Wednesday, and one hosted by hubby’s boss on Friday night. We boarded the plane on Saturday evening, and had a load of wonderful friends see us off at the airport. More tears, more hugs, fond farewells.
For the first time in our life, we flew Business Class. I stumbled into the cabin in the nose of the plane in floods of tears and bundled our 2 young children into their seats. They looked disproportionately tiny amid the sea of blue leather, as they hauled out their crayons and started playing with the remote controls. Each seat had that wonder of all wonders, its own TV screen! This was all part of another Big Augustine Adventure, and they were ready for it.
The flight attendant took one look at me and started pouring the champagne. “Here, honey,” she said, pressing a glass into my one hand and tissues into the other, “I think you need these.”
She was right. What were we doing?
After a sleepless, fretful night flight, we arrived in London. It was late August, and the temperature in Houston had been something like 105 F. London was a cool 72 F, and while the entire country was out sunbathing, I was huddled in my black trench coat and shivering with cold. The cool, damp air was truly a shock to the system.
The company put us up for our first week in the Royal Lancaster Gate Hotel, just opposite the Italian Gardens at Hyde Park. We were meant to have a room with 2 double beds. There was, however, considerable confusion at the check-in desk. Apparently, we had arrived just on the eve of Ramadan, and most of Saudi Arabia was staying in the hotel for their pre-Ramadan shopping spree. The hotel had made a mistake on our reservation and had us booked in for the following month.
We stood in a sea of black Burkas queued up at the desk, my husband, myself and our 2 little kids from Nowhereville U.S.A. and thought, “Now what?” while the Reservations agent tapped frantically on her computer.
Suddenly, she broke into a broad smile. “Oh,” she said, “I believe we have something for you. I think you are going to like this.”
We Augustines all looked at each other in puzzlement. The Adventure continued.
“Leave your luggage here and take the elevator to the top floor.” She smiled reassuringly at us. I am pretty certain we looked every bit like babes in the woods. “Your rooms are at the end of the hallway.” She handed us the keys and the porter began wheeling our bags away. “We have put you in the Penthouse Suite… enjoy your stay!”
And so it was that this motley little crew of novice world travellers ended up in a 5-room suite with a 3-sided view of London, starting with Hyde Park and viewing across the entire city. Oh the luxury of bathing in water that spouted out of a gold tap in the shape of a swan’s head. Fluffy, white bathrobes were folded neatly over the heated towel rail. So this was how the other half lived…
As I emerged from my bath, hubby said, “Whatever you do, DO NOT GO TO SLEEP…” The sun was still high in the sky – it was perhaps mid afternoon. “It’s the only way to beat the jet lag,” he said.
While I believed him, I was also exhausted, clean and damp, bundled head to toe in a toasty white bathrobe. The bed was calling.
“Try to stay up until night time,” he said.
“Mm hmm,” I apparently mumbled something about maybe laying down for a minute or 2. The last thing I recall that afternoon was the mattress rushing up to meet my face. I did not move a muscle until noon the following day.
That second night in London, hubby and I ordered room service and a bottle of wine. With the kids tucked into bed, we sat up on the wide window ledge and watched the lights begin to twinkle as dusk fell on London. We laughed then at how frightened we had been 8 years earlier, driving into Tulsa and watching a similar sunset. Once again, the Augustines were beginning a new adventure. Where would this one lead them?
Your Ever Adventurous,
Originally published by motherhendiaries 26 March 2014
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