Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Yes, Headmistress" (part 9)

We talked all the way home. Not everything that happened that day was bad, but neither was it all good. "Mom," they said. "It's all different here!" 

"Oh? tell me how different.." Apparently the use of language was one way it was different, for our small boy had said the word 'bloody' on the playground, and had been in trouble for it.

And what was the matter with saying it? Well, they didn't know it but children were not allowed to say that word, even if they didn't mean whatever it was meant to have meant. Or something. Here's what happened: while on the playground he shared that he had gotten a 'bloody nose' last year. I mean, doesn't everyone get a bloody nose at some point? I would have thought such a thing was relatively ordinary. But he quickly found out it was a BIG mistake to say it, for the response was swift.

A teacher learned about it and the child that uttered the abominable b-word had to stand against the wall for the duration and not talk. 

Suddenly I remembered. "Oh! I knew about that word but never thought to mention it. You'll probably have to call it a 'nosebleed' from now on.."

So that was the first event. 

The next bit, as you already know, was the way they ate the school dinner. Americans eat the American way, which is pretty different from the English. We cut our food with (of course) the knife in the right hand, and the fork in the left. Then - and I realize what a waste of time this all is - we switch hands and pick up the bite with the fork in our right hand. Unconscionable!

Miss Lunn expressed that this sort of eating simply

That was the second event.

But before they could tell me more, the topic suddenly changed direction. We were passing the chestnut trees, and those two lit up like light bulbs. "Mom! It's the CONKERS!!!"


"Conkers! They're all over the place - look!"

Sure enough, there were horse chestnuts scattered 'all over the place', ahead of us. The b-word, and dinner knives, and strange differences were forgotten. They explained to their mother all about 'conkers'.

"You see, mum, they drill a hole through...."


So it was 'mum', now? That actually sounded pretty good. 

Rule Britannia!!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Yes, Headmistress" (part 8)

These two sweet things were safe and sound, and in the capable hands of Miss Lunn. She said they were the first Americans at this primary school in ten years. So they would be unique; interesting; divergent. Right? I couldn't wait to find out!

First day of school

I walked home through the most enchanting fall morning. A delightful beginning! There would be time to unpack boxes and gather groceries and bake an apple pie. We would all celebrate our first day in grand style. 
   (The Darlings)

Instead of purchasing apples, I remembered the apple trees scattered among the gravestones just steps away, behind the ancient church. To get there I walked through our back yard, where rose bushes crowded along a long stone wall. This wall and these roses were the best spot in the garden. They would be magnificent in spring. How could I be so blessed?

The wall was perhaps two feet high, so it was easy just to step over and find oneself in the churchyard. I was in no hurry now. A sweet silence beckoned me to mosey and to read the ancient gravestones surrounding me. The names were old and traditional - Jeremiah, Martha, Ruth, James - as were the dates, going back to the 1700's and earlier. I had never been in a graveyard this old. 

The apples I found were perfect for pie making, and I carried 5 of them back through the churchyard. There was a reason I was eager to bake in this new place of ours: it had an AGA cooker! I had never heard of an AGA cooker, but soon remembered the connection between the AGA and Rosamunde Pilcher books. The AGA figured very importantly in all of her novels, for many of her heroines did their cooking with one. How charming to be included! 

The SconeLady with her AGA

I walked back to the school, just in time to find out how my two had survived. A group of mothers and small children stood waiting, and I noticed the dark and lively mother of the adorable four. This lady was all smiles and laughter, and she greeted me right away. "I remember you from this morning! Are you the new Americans?"

I don't remember our exact conversation, but during it I was warmly welcomed and certainly accepted. In a few minutes the children began spilling out the entrance, and what did we see? One of her daughters was walking with my own. We both laughed. Could it be? Friends.

It was time to go, but before we parted I said, "...and what is your name?"

Her youngest was pulling her ahead, "Come on, mum!" but she turned, laughing and calling out, "Rosie!"

Rosie. It was perfect. There was something about that name that exactly fit.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Yes, Headmistress" (part 7)

Downham Market

Punctuality was strictly adhered to at the primary school, and so there was some rushing as we prepared for the first day. The kindly husband (bless him for agreeing to the house!) had long since begun the 25 mile trek to the base. His F-111 fighter jet awaited, and he too must be punctual.

It was 7 tenths of a mile to the school, and we decided to walk - except in case of an emergency. Then we would take the car. Along the way we found ourselves fascinated by the sweetest and most ancient of houses at the top of the hill. Oh - and the white lace curtains were open! We knew better, but couldn't help ourselves and glanced inward. The room was a tiny but quaint looking kitchen with a very old stove of some kind. Next to the table sat a young and pretty mother feeding a small child in a high chair. Then, we were past and could see no more.

We really weren't trying to peek in! It's just that the window was right there at eye level, and when one glanced ever so briefly in, one saw that the kitchen was below the window. I mean, it was below street level and had the effect of looking almost into a basement. It was splendid. I longed to meet this pretty young mother and her baby. 

And now, we were closing in on the primary school. Gulp! The two, who had been chatting together and looking about with interest, suddenly fell silent. There it was, their new and daily home for the next two years. Oh dear. There was nothing for it now but to walk in.

But - oh. There was a group of mothers and children also nearing the entrance. In fact there were cars and vans approaching, doors opening, children spilling out. One van in particular caught my eye. Within it were four adorable children, rather bouncy children in fact. The side door opened and out popped three of them. The fourth tried to pop, but was swiftly prevented by his mother.

We entered, and found the Headmistress's office. Miss Lunn welcomed the two, and thanked me for bringing them. There was a small silence, and then I realized - it was time for me to leave. Miss Lunn would take it from here.

Miss Lunn

As I left, the van (with now only one bouncy child) was just pulling away. The mother, dark haired and lively, briefly turned her head in my direction. And then she was gone. The last thing I saw from the back seat was the dark and curly head of the fourth child, bouncing.

Something about this van and its people suggested that today was only the beginning of - something. I didn't know what. It was just a little bit lonely here, for this new American. I certainly had not met anyone yet. 

It was obviously high time I got started.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Yes, Headmistress" (part 6)

As we pulled in, the estate representative stood in the doorway of Number One, The Towers - watching, waiting. Smiling! We introduced ourselves, and he asked, "But where are the children? I understand you have two.."

"Oh, yes! They are in the American school at the base until we find a house, and then they will attend your local primary."

"Well, let's get started then, shall we?" He took us for a tour of the house, which I adored. Among my papers, there is a postcard describing the house to my mother:

"By Friday we had found our 'house of dreams', mother! A large 4 bedroom home in a quaint village with tons of charm. The house has a heated pool! And a little tea house near the pool to sip while watching kids. It has a charming music room, laundry room, 3 bath rooms and more. We're to be in on Friday next week. So when can you visit?! Oh, and there is an old English church outside our back fence and a 'churchyard'. That means graveyard over here. The house has a nice front and back yard, with roses! The children will be in the village school which is Church of England, and we are looking forward to that. Pray for an easy transition for them.."

It was this 'transition' that seemed vague and in the murky realms of the Unknown. As we moved in, the children pondered their new future. Would they like their teachers? Would the other students like them? And what about Miss Lunn? They had never had anything like a Headmistress before. Heavens. Whatever next?

A giant question mark hung over them like in a comic strip. I could easily see it on their faces as they stood in their new school uniforms. They were so sweet. 1st and 4th graders, with all of the hopes and fears we ourselves had at that age.

"Pray for an easy transition for them..."


For the first time, I was hit with some doubt. It was one thing for us to transition into a culture we were familiar with and ecstatic about; another thing altogether for them to fold into a system so different from the more 'feel good' type back home. 

I prayed. I thought of goodness and mercy following us up the unfamiliar hill to the school, in through the front door, on to their classrooms. I knew the promise well, and counted on it. 

I would always count on it.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."
23rd Psalm

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Yes, Headmistress" (part 5)

We introduced them to the British lifestyle with high excitement. It was wonderful being back after a 4 year absence! Riding north toward the base revealed all of the beauty I had missed in that span of time, and it all seemed romantic to me. The husband whose Air Force career enabled all of this romance was just as happy with it. What makes the wife happy makes everybody happy. Right? And so he was content.

But we needed a house. It couldn't be just any old house, but must have ample space for two children and a recording studio. I spent an inordinate amount of time gently pestering the housing office lady, enquiring as to homes that might be of interest.

"Do you have any thatched cottages available?" was my very first question.

"Ah, well no, we don't seem to have any of those in your - ah, rental price range, ma'am. Could I perhaps interest you in a semidetached bungalow?"

But - no. A semidetached bungalow did not seem quite to strike the tone I was looking for. One of the upper officer's wives had mentioned her lovely house in a thatchy-homey kind of area. Thetford. "Our daughter, Meagan, has a 'wing' all her own. It's true, there is a bedroom with an en suite bathroom all her own, plus the nanny's room next to it and a kitchen they use."

Sample of a thatched cottage

I was shocked. Meagan's WING? Good grief. This became a running joke among the newer officer's wives. We all bugged our husbands to get us a house with a 'WING' for our children and their 'nanny'. We could hardly wait to find ourselves able to have a wing like Meagan's.

Then one day at the housing office we overheard someone discussing a house that caught our attention. Someone mentioned - could it be? - a swimming pool! And now this interested person was saying he might go for a look. We both stood silently and moved out of the door, and in lock step went to the car. Maybe we could get there first!

On the way my husband tentatively said, "Well, it is a ways to this house from the base.."

Oh dear - he was right. It was 25 miles after all. And I didn't want it to be too much of a drive. "Ok, let's time ourselves today and see. Maybe you will find it isn't so bad," I ventured.

As we approached this house, all thoughts of drives and 'WINGS' and studios flew from my mind. THIS was the house. This was IT! It was so cute, for us. Not huge but big enough. A little room just the size for a studio. Pretty roses everywhere. Orchards of apple trees out back...

I whispered, "Oh please....please let this be The House!"

We walked up to the door, and saw a white haired and cultured looking man standing, smiling towards us..

See you along the way!
the Scone Lady

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Friday, July 18, 2014

This Happy Distraction

I was going to write about Paula Deen's cinnamon rolls, but it turns out I didn't want to write about them. They are nice and rather comforting, those rolls; but something infinitely nicer and more comforting prompts my pen this night. There are three of them downstairs, being placed into their beds. I do not mean to say that they all stay in their beds. But they are placed there, nonetheless.

It has been a long and busy and even productive day, this last day of the visiting vacation. It began with the fantastically fun digging in the rocks and dirt of the enormous driveway. There can never be too many rocks.

Then there was the 'visit' by our friendly doe, which was very entertaining - and somewhat awe-inspiring it must be said.
                             A deer becomes friendly 
Also there was running chase through the grasses of the hugely spacious lawn. This lawn was planted, fertilized, and tended by a kindly grandfather who knew the three were coming. He refurbished it months ago in preparation, so it is fine to see them running chase through it. 

Best of all these things was the trip, floating, down the Deschutes River. Each had a life preserver, as did grandma. Grandma also held her purple umbrella, which numerous people commented on as if they had never seen a lady with a purple umbrella in a tube while floating down the Deschutes. You really would think they thought this hilariously funny. It was very comforting to hear them say they wish they had thought of it themselves.

The tubes were great fun, and for most of the trip all 6 of us were held together by hanging onto the side handles. Occasionally, though, a rogue tube would separate (as you see below), and then a grownup - usually daddy - had to retrieve the rogue. No harm was done. Just a lot of good natured shouting and laughter. This kind of thing went on among all the floaters. Only positive language, and happiness. Comaraderie.

It was all great fun and had we taken a vote, today would be a pinnacle, with perhaps horse riding right up there as a tie. Or perhaps - playing with cousins all afternoon at Black Butte; or even, riding a four wheeler and a combine on a farm in Lebanon. Well, there are just too many terrific things to consider for votes. It was all equally marvelous. 

The SconeLady travels down the river with her purple umbrella

It is time now for sleep. I hope, dear Readers, that you are enjoying your summer; that you might have small ones somewhere in the vicinity of your ankles or knees, asking and wanting and laughing up at you.

I wish everyone had a joy like that one. Perhaps then they would be distracted and wouldn't need to fear, or blame, or have international incidents that end lives and muddy the waters of accord. I wish.

Let's think about it. Maybe we feel we cannot do very much to create this happy distraction. But I really do think we can.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Thursday, July 17, 2014

And Dreams Are Horses

They had their very own horse for half an hour, today, and they couldn't have been any happier. You should have seen those faces - Hahaha! The three had found something they all loved, all at the same time.

The SconeLady had always wanted her own horse, and often dreamed of how fun it would be to see the world from that immense height. Never mind that one must also know how to take care of the horse and its gear. I thought all of it was oh-so romantic, and wanted these three to feel the same. I was almost positive they would.

The smallest was only 2, and there was some slight doubt as to whether he would make it onto the back of a horse. It could have gone either way, truth be told. All week he would be playing happily, then stop suddenly and say, "I NOT going horse ride!" The rest of us would smile and act like it was no big deal. Right up until the moment, we just weren't sure.

But when it came time, each of them climbed up with amazing skill. The 7 year old was an instant natural, as if he had been on a horse all his life. As his mother later said, he  seated his horse well. His sister and brother followed his calm lead, and listened carefully to all the things the horse lady told them. She told them how to make their horse go (squeeze and kick their sides, make a kissing sound, and shake the reigns slightly), stop (pull gently back on the reigns, saying "Whoa!"), and how to pat it to make it know you are nice.

They learned how to go up a hill and down again (lean forward when going up, lean backward with down), and how to 'jump' your horse ... well, there was a log for their horse to step over. But it was a beginning!

The place was simply crawling with horses - 30 of them in all shapes and forms. There were some mules, too. Or perhaps they were donkeys? I wasn't quite sure. They sounded dreadfully mulish, come to think of it. And then there was the obligatory Alpacas, seen everywhere in this central land of pastures and paddocks and pines. 

The grownups had as much fun, just watching. Mommy and Daddy helped to spot the two smaller ones, just in case. And Grandma followed along with her ever-ready camera while Grandpa walked behind, smiling and laughing as all loving grandpas do. It was all so terribly satisfying.

There is something pretty grand about being away from the asphalts of California, finding space, and lush greens, and huge blue skies. Makes you want to take a real deep breath and hold on to the moment, while you have it. 

Three small and drowsy heads will sleep comfortably, tonight. The stars in their eyes match those hovering above this sweet woodland cabin. There is one last day of the visit now left, a day in which to find adventures, and frogs, and to dream of horses and paddocks. I know of one lady sitting up tonight who wishes for more days like these, and who will be sorry to see them end.

The quintessential SconeLady. The one with the camera. 


See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Many thanks to Diane's Riding Place!