Wednesday, August 29, 2007

London Awaits

Tomorrow we will be off, and we will not be back until late in the afternoon on Saturday, September 15.

Tonight Andrew’s brother will arrive from Denver. He is coming a day early to avoid any potential flight delays tomorrow. He will spend the night with his parents, and Andrew and I will spend the night at his parents’ house, too.

Tomorrow before lunch, Andrew’s mother and Andrew’s brother and I will take the dog over to what will be his home for the next fifteen days. He will be staying with a friend from our church.

She is a widow, 75 years old, and she loves having him with her for a week or two now and then (although the dog would probably be too much for her to handle on a full-time basis). She bakes him sugar cookies and cooks steaks for him and feeds him ice cream, and he loves staying with her. Two neighbor kids will take him to the park every afternoon, just to give her a break from the dog and to give her a chance to rest. Apparently it always works out well for everyone whenever the dog stays with our friend from church. It works out well for her, the kids and the dog.

Andrew’s mother always cries whenever she has to leave the dog. The dog remains at her side most of the day, and she is accustomed to having him with her most of the time, and he is accustomed to being with her. It is very hard for her to leave the dog, and it is probably hard for him, too.

Andrew and his father should be home from work tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. We will have a light lunch, after which we will head to the airport.

The last three days have been delightful. I have had the week off, and I have been spending the last three days with Andrew’s mother, helping her do a few things around the house and helping her get things ready for London.

Andrew’s mother is a delightful woman, and I have always liked her—as does everyone. She is warm and funny and witty and caring, always solicitous of others, always looking out for others, always knowing precisely the right thing to say and do to put others at ease. There are few people in the world with her great gift of social grace. According to her lifelong friends, she has displayed this special and innate gift since she was a small child.

I met Andrew’s mother on the evening of Friday, March 3, 2006, in New York, at the home of Andrew’s oldest brother. I had already met Andrew’s father in Washington exactly one week earlier.

I remember that evening vividly. Andrew and I had driven up to New York from Washington after our classes had ended for the day. Andrew’s parents had spent that week visiting their oldest son and his family, including, of course, the new baby, who was only four months old at the time.

Here is the text of a portion of an email message I sent to a friend of mine early the next week, in which I described the first evening I knew Andrew’s mother.

[There is one item of background information readers need to know to understand one of Andrew’s remarks, a witticism that helped break the ice between Andrew’s mother and me.

Andrew’s middle brother had previously been engaged, briefly, to a young lady from Los Angeles. This young lady had visited Andrew’s family two months before, at Christmas 2005. This young lady did not make a good impression on Andrew’s family, to say the least.

She had been very unpleasant, criticizing everything, complaining about everything, demanding special foods, finding everything unsuitable, staying in bed until Noon each day and expecting to be waited on hand and foot at all times.

On Christmas Day 2005, with about 50 different foods to choose from for Christmas Dinner, she couldn’t find “a single thing” to eat and—in an astonishing and bewildering act of rudeness—had asked to be taken to a Thai restaurant. (Andrew had pointed out to her that Thai restaurants in Minneapolis were closed on Christmas Day—but he did offer to get her a bowl of Science Diet.)

Andrew’s family had been required to change her guest room three times during her visit because she had found each guest room to be unsuitable for some reason or other.

During her stay she had refused even to step foot into the living room, where the Christmas tree had been mounted, because she said the tree might emit harmful vapors.

She was a total pain, and sometime I will tell the whole story. It is a very, very funny story—in hindsight, at least, although it probably wasn’t very funny at the time.

It was a memorable Christmas for the whole family, all the way around, but not in a positive way.

To understand the full story, readers also need to know that this young lady’s third and final guest room was directly across the hall from Andrew’s room. This third room did not please her, either, but by this time she had already gone through all the guest rooms available to her and there were no more guest rooms to be offered (although Andrew had offered to help her move to the basement).

The young lady had objected to the third and final guest room because, she said, Andrew made “strange noises” at night. This would have been virtually impossible for her to know, because the hallway is quite wide and Andrew’s door was shut and her guest room door was shut. She would not have been able to hear anything emanating from Andrew’s room. Nevertheless, she was insistent that Andrew’s “strange noises” were keeping her awake at night.

Ultimately, she left the house. Andrew drove her out, or so the story is now told in his family—which is a whole other funny story in itself, which I also may tell sometime.

The short version: Andrew started making fun of her and mimicking her, openly, in her presence. Finally, she and Andrew had a heated confrontation outside the upstairs linen closet about her incessant demands shortly before 6:00 a.m. on December 31, 2005. This confrontation resulted in her leaving the house—forever.

She and Andrew’s middle brother broke off their engagement not long after.]


When we were passing New Brunswick, New Jersey, Andrew's cell phone rang. It was Alec, and he wanted to know where we were, progress-wise, on our journey. Andrew told him that we were passing New Brunswick, and Alec said "Oh, good. Then we'll see you in about 45 minutes. Mom will put dinner on the stove now."

"What will we be having?" Andrew asked.

"Mom's special Dutch Chowder" was Alec's answer.

"Oh, swell. I can't wait!" said Andrew.

"Call me when you're ten minutes away" said Alec, and Andrew said that he would.

Andrew told me that his mother's Dutch Chowder was VERY good, and that she probably had made it because it was the perfect dish to make ahead of time, ideal for a situation in which dinner could not be perfectly timed, owing to the uncertainty of our arrival time.

"It is made the day before, chilled for 24 hours, and then heated before it is served" he said.

He said it was made with chicken and dark lager beer and cream and different cheeses and an entire assortment of fresh vegetables, to which are added green onions and bacon bits as it is heated prior to being served. "You'll really like it" he told me.

When we were ten minutes away from Alec's place, Andrew called him to let him know that we were ten minutes away. And, once again, when we arrived at our destination Alec was there to meet us out front, to slip behind the wheel, and to drive into the parking garage of his building.

We did not have as much stuff to carry upstairs this trip as the time before, as Andrew had REALLY stocked Alec and Lizbeth up two weeks ago, so we three were able to make do--just--with only one trip upstairs this time.

Lizbeth met us at the door and held the door open and directed us into the kitchen, where we put down all the stuff, including our bags. Andrew's mother and father were in the kitchen--Andrew's mother was at the stove, stirring the chowder, and Andrew's father was sitting in a chair, feeding Tim his bottle.

After we put down the stuff we were carrying, Andrew took me over to his Mom, kissed her, and said "Mom, this is Joshua. Joshua, this is my mother, Jean."

Andrew's mother shook my hand, and told me that she was pleased to meet me. She did not, however, kiss me or hug me or do anything else I somehow thought she might do. For some reason, I thought I would receive an overwhelming welcome from her, but I did not receive that. She was polite and cordial, but she did not give me an overwhelming display of affection.

I told her I was pleased to meet her, and then I turned to Andrew's father and I told him I was pleased to see him again. "I apologize for not getting up, Joshua, but, as you see, I am otherwise occupied" he said to me, and then he smiled at me. He continued "How have you been?"

"Very well, thank you, sir" I said. "And you?"

"We've been having a wonderful time, all week" he answered, and smiled again. "And I am sure you can guess why."

Lizbeth turned to Alec and said "Why don't you help them take their stuff to the day room, and have them get washed up for dinner", so Alec helped us pick up our stuff and we took it to Tim's room.

"Get cleaned up, you guys, and come right back" he said. "We're almost ready to eat."

So Andrew and I washed up and returned to the kitchen.

When we returned to the kitchen, Andrew went over again to his mother and he smiled at her--he gave her a dazzling, million-dollar smile, bursting with love and affection--and he said "So, now can I have a hug from my girl?" and he gave her an incredibly loving hug, and she gave him one back. He kissed her again, and she kissed him, and then he just held her for a long time in his arms.

While Andrew was holding her, he asked her how she was doing, and how her week was going, and whether she had noticed how much Tim had grown since Christmas (which of course she had noticed) and whether she had had a chance to do any shopping while in New York (she had not--she had been staying home with Lizbeth and the baby). He told her how very much he had missed her since the Christmas break and how happy he was to see her again.

"We're just going to stay here, Joshua and I, and hang out all weekend" Andrew said to his mother, and then Andrew finally stopped holding his mother with both arms. He put his right arm around her shoulder and then he reached out for me, and he drew me to him and he put his left arm around my shoulder. "That will give you a chance to get to know Josh, Mom" he said to her. Then Andrew immediately turned to me and he said "And that will give you a chance to get to know Mom, Josh."

Andrew turned back to his Mom and he said "You will like Josh very much, Mom. I know you will. He is very sweet and very gentle. And if Josh will remind you of anyone you already know and love who is also very sweet and very gentle, he will remind you of [the former fiancé of Andrew’s middle brother]."

At this, everyone burst out laughing, and whatever ice there had been was broken. Andrew's mother laughed, too, heartily, and she said to me, with a twinkle in her eye, and with great mock concern, "I just hope we have laid in enough lime for you for the weekend!" She laughed again, and then she said, again with mock concern, "And don't worry--we'll have breakfast waiting for you at the crack of Noon. But we can only hope and pray that Andrew will keep his 'strange noises' during the night down to a minimum."

And she laughed again, and Andrew kissed her again, and then Andrew left me there at her side and he went over to his Dad, now standing, and he hugged him, very, very hard, and he told him he was very glad to see him again.

Andrew's Dad hugged him back, very hard, and he held Andrew to him. When Andrew's Dad released him, Alec stepped in and hugged Andrew and kissed him and tussled his hair and nuzzled him and patted him and hugged him all over again. Then Andrew went over to Lizbeth and he hugged her and kissed her, and she hugged him and kissed him back.

Then Alec came over to me and he put his arm around my neck and he asked me how I had been doing. I told him I had been doing fine, and Alec asked me whether Andrew had been taking good care of me and whether I had been taking good care of Andrew. I told him that we both had been taking good care of each other. "Swell" he said. "Lizbeth and I are so happy that you guys were able to come up again so soon. We missed you guys after you left. We both hoped it wouldn't be long before you came up again. We're glad you're here." And Alec tussled my hair, and he said to his mother "See, Mom, his hair is really short, just like I told you. It's not even quite an inch long." And Alec tussled my hair again, and he said to me "Of course, we had to tell my Mom everything we knew about you. She was curious, as I'm sure you understand."

"Of course I understand" I said. "I would have expected that."

Andrew's mother then asked everyone "Do you think you will be ready to eat in five minutes?" and everyone nodded, and Alec started seating us at the table in the kitchen. He told Andrew and me to sit next to each other, and he asked his parents to sit next to each other directly across the table from Andrew and me, and he said that he and Lizbeth would sit at opposite ends of the table.

Andrew and his Dad and I all took our places at the table.

Alec poured sparkling cider into glasses for everyone, and Lizbeth and Andrew’s mother put three small dishes at each of the places on the table: one dish of Waldorf salad, one dish of tomato and cucumber salad, and one dish of a carrot and cabbage and onion salad. Then we were each given an enormous bowl of the chowder, which smelled heavenly, and Alec, Lizbeth and Andrew’s mother sat down.

Alec asked his Dad to say grace, and after that we all dug in. The chowder was divine. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Andrew said it takes almost six hours to make, and that it does not taste quite perfect unless it has been chilled for 24 hours, a process which somehow allows the flavors to blend. Andrew thanked his mother for making it yesterday and I, too, thanked Andrew's mother for making it yesterday. She said that it was a total pleasure to make, and that she hoped that we truly enjoyed it. I truly enjoyed it, Silvio.

The three totally different kinds of salads were the perfect complements to the chowder, and it was a perfect meal.

The conversation during dinner was very relaxed. Everyone asked us about our drive up, and all four of them told us about their week together, and they told us what Tim had been up to (which was not very much, of course, but every new facial gesture he made was a major event to all of them). Andrew's parents were very pleasant during dinner, although his parents looked at us both keenly the whole time--which is why I suspect they were seated directly across from us in the first place (and a maneuver which I believe was planned in advance).

Andrew and Alec and I each ate three bowls of the chowder, accompanied by fresh servings of each of the accompanying salad dishes each time, and Andrew’s father had a second half-bowl of the chowder. Lizbeth and Andrew’s mother made do with one bowl. When we were done eating, there was still a lot of chowder left, and Andrew’s mother said that anyone could have a bowl at any time during the weekend if anyone ever got hungry--it would take only a few minutes to heat up an individual serving.

"But, Jean, I don't think you have any plans of letting anyone get hungry this weekend, do you?" said Andrew’s Dad, smiling. "It sounds like you've got at least eight meals a day planned for these boys."

"Well, maybe not eight, exactly" she said, laughing "But they will be sure to have more than enough."

Then she got up from the table and she said, "Andrew and Joshua, why don't you clear the table and I will make coffee and get the dessert ready. We'll let Alec and Lizbeth rest."

So Andrew and I cleared the table, and Andrew’s mother made coffee and brought out a homemade lemon meringue pie. And it was TRULY homemade. The crust was homemade. The lemon filling was homemade--completely from scratch. The meringue was homemade.

"Oh, Josh, you will love this" said Andrew. "You will just die when you eat this."

And Andrew was right. It was completely different--and vastly better--than any lemon meringue pie I had ever eaten. The lemon part was almost white, not yellow, and did not even look like the lemon part in pies bought in stores. That is because lemon meringue pies in stores are made with lemon flavoring and food coloring, but not with natural lemon.

Andrew’s mother's pie had a tartness and a natural sweetness and a subtlety of flavoring and a lightness that pies from stores do not have. It was a perfect dessert, and the perfect dessert to top off what we had had for dinner.

When we were all finished with our first slices, Andrew’s mother asked us if we wanted more. I saw that there were only two slices of pie left, and I declined a second slice, thinking that Alec and Andrew would each want another slice of pie.

"Didn't you like it?" Andrew’s mother asked me after I declined a second slice.

"Yes, I loved it!" I said.

"Well, then you must have another slice. These pies will be at their best tonight."

And she pulled a second lemon meringue pie from the refrigerator. She gave Alec, Andrew and me full slices, and she gave Lizbeth and Andrew’s father half slices.

When we were done with our second slices, she asked us "More?" and Andrew and Alec said "Sure, Mom" and she said to me "Let me get you another slice, too, Joshua, so they don't have to eat alone."

Andrew’s father started laughing and he turned to me and said "Yes, these two shy, retiring creatures are always reluctant to eat alone."

And Andrew’s mother laughed, too, and said "I know they will both feel better if they know you are eating, too, Joshua."

And she gave us our third slices of pie. Normally, I could never eat three slices of lemon pie in one sitting, but the flavoring was so subtle and the pie was so good and the lemon filling so light that I had no trouble with the third slice--in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When we were done, she said "There are three slices left. Do you want them now, or tomorrow?"

We all were completely full by now, and we all said that we would think about eating those slices tomorrow.

After eating, we sat around the table for thirty minutes or so, drinking coffee, and letting the food settle. It had been an excellent, excellent dinner.

Andrew's Dad asked us what we had planned for the weekend.

"You know, Dad, nothing. Nothing is what we have planned. Josh and I talked about that on the way up, and we both decided that we would just like to stay here and spend time with you and Mom and Alec and Lizbeth. That is, unless you have something planned, or unless Alec and Lizbeth have something planned."

And Andrew looked around the table, waiting for any responses.

Lizbeth spoke first. "Well, WE have nothing planned, but we don't want to interfere with anything you guys may want to do. We certainly don't want you to feel compelled to sit home with us all day and night."

"That's why we came" said Andrew.

"Your mother and I have nothing planned" said Andrew's Dad. "The only thing we could think of doing, IF you two wanted to do something AND spend time with us doing it, was to go to a show tomorrow night or to go to the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday."

"Josh and I are totally open and have no plans" said Andrew. "Our only thought at all, on the way up here, was that Alec and Lizbeth might want to take advantage of all the babysitters present, and to go out somewhere on Saturday night. We thought this might be an ideal opportunity for them to do that. Beyond that, we have no thoughts beyond spending time with you. If YOU want to do something, then we will go with you if you want. If you want to stay here, we will stay here with you. We are happy either way."

Andrew’s Dad turned to Alec and Lizbeth and said to them "You know, you SHOULD go out tomorrow night. Andrew is right. This is a perfect opportunity for you to get out for the night. You should take advantage of it."

Alec and Lizbeth looked at each other, and they said they would think about it.

Then Andrew looked at me and asked "I wash, you dry?"

"Sure" I said, and we both got up.

"Oh, now, you boys are NOT going to do the dishes" said Andrew's mother, and she started to get up.

"Yes, we are" said Andrew. "Sit. We'll handle this. We are pros at this. We do this almost every night. You can all just sit back and talk to us if you want to. And anyone who gets bored can go watch television."

And Andrew and I washed and dried the dishes.

And we talked to them the entire time.

Andrew and I did not really have any news to tell--we assumed, no doubt rightfully, that Andrew’s father had provided everyone with a full accounting of the events of last weekend at Westfield.

So we talked about the movies Andrew and I had seen together, and the books we were reading, and we talked about Andrew's roommates and the fact that they seemed to have no problem with the fact that I hung around their apartment quite a lot (and this was a topic in which Andrew's mother was apparently quite interested, for some reason), and we talked about the courses I was taking this semester. The time passed quickly and very pleasantly.

When we were done with the dishes, we sat down at the kitchen table with them, and we all had some more sparkling cider and we talked about basically nothing until it was time to go to bed. But even though we were talking about basically nothing, everyone seemed to enjoy it, including me.

Everyone prepared to leave the kitchen and turn in at about 11:45 p.m.

Before we left the kitchen, Andrew hugged and kissed his mother and said good night, and she hugged and kissed him back. He hugged his father and said good night, and his father hugged him back. He hugged Alec and said good night, and Alec hugged him back and tussled his hair. He hugged and kissed Lizbeth and said good night, and she hugged and kissed him back.

What did they do to me as I said good night? I said good night to Andrew’s father, and he put his hand on my shoulder and said 'Good night, Joshua." I said good night to Alec and he tussled my hair and said "Good night, pardner". I said good night to Lizbeth and she pecked me on the cheek and said "Good night. Sleep well." I said good night to Andrew's mother and she put her hand on my shoulder and said "Have a good night, Joshua."

Andrew and I went into the living room, and Alec and Lizbeth followed, saying that they were going to get the sofa beds ready for us. We told them that we would just do it ourselves, and we did.

We changed into our "sleep gear" and returned to the living room. The living room is very light at night, even with the lights turned off, because of all the lights from the city that flood the room.

I asked Andrew what his parents thought about me, and he said that everything was positive.

"If not" he said "their reaction would have been different."

"How so?" I asked.

"They treated you like family. If they did not think that, they would have signaled that, and you would have known it, believe me."

"How would they have signaled that?" I asked.

"Well, number one, you wouldn't be here. And neither would they" Andrew said.

"Number two, you would NOT have been awarded my mother's Dutch chowder and a lemon meringue pie."

"And, number three, they would have tried to stay as far away from you as decently possible. Instead, they spent the entire evening in your company--they wanted to do that, they enjoyed doing that, and they were glad that they did that."

Andrew paused, and then he said to me "We couldn't have hoped for anything more."

I asked Andrew whether his parents liked me.

"Well, I know my Dad does, because he told me that. And my mother has not had a chance to get to know you yet, but she is obviously pre-disposed to like you because she received favorable reports from Alec and Lizbeth about you. And when she gets to know you, she will like you very much--I have no doubt of that."


And Andrew’s mother does like me. She likes me very much. She grew to like me very quickly, and I grew to like her very quickly. She is one of the prime reasons why I am so happy to be in Minneapolis.

I have loved spending the last three days with Andrew’s mother. I had never before been alone with her for such an extended period of time, and I cherished the time we spent together this week. Andrew’s mother is remarkable company. She is also a remarkable woman.

Whenever Andrew’s mother and I are alone together, she frequently tells me stories about things that happened when her three sons were boys, and I have always enjoyed hearing these stories. She also talks about her own family, and Andrew’s father, and the early years of their marriage, and interesting things she knows about the history of Minneapolis and Minnesota. She has what must be an unlimited number of such stories to tell, and I always find them fascinating.

My own parents worked for a living and both my mother and father were always gone all day. Moreover, they were separated for a time, and I lived with one of my grandmothers on and off for several years. I never experienced the unadulterated joys of family life and the constant parental attention and devotion and affection that Andrew has always enjoyed. That is probably why I love these stories so much. I get some sort of comfort from them, just as children gain comfort from the deep myths of the unconscious buried within fairy tales.

I think Andrew’s mother has always understood this, because she has always been very motherly to me, treating me as one of her own, giving me as much attention and affection and love as she gives her own boys. She is one of those persons who has unlimited love to give, and she gives of herself freely. I have been a fortunate beneficiary of her love. I have been privileged to have her all to myself for three days this week.

We really did not do much. Andrew’s mother pretty much had everything ready for London before Monday. The only thing for her to do is actually to put the clothes into the luggage, which she will do tomorrow morning.

This week I helped her do some light housework, and I helped her do a load or two of laundry, and I helped her run some errands to the food store and to the Post Office and to church and to the dry cleaners. I took the dog to the park Monday and yesterday. Today I gave the dog a bath, so he would be nice and clean when we take him over to his new temporary home tomorrow. I got as wet as he did during his bath.

I also helped her in the kitchen, which I always enjoy very much. Andrew’s mother is a serious and inspired cook, and she takes every facet of food preparation very seriously. This is a gift she has, and it is a gift she enjoys very much. I don’t know what she would do if she did not have people to cook for.

Andrew’s mother never does any seriously heavy housework, just as Andrew’s father never does any seriously heavy yard work, because Andrew insists upon doing the heavy tasks himself—and I have always helped him. Nothing irritates Andrew more than seeing his parents try to do too much or have loads of work dumped upon them, and his parents pretty much leave the heavy work to him now, and this has been true for the last several years.

One sure way to get up Andrew’s nose is for someone to create unnecessary work for his parents, whether it be houseguests, relatives or, even on occasion, Andrew’s brothers. This is the one thing that will set Andrew off—as the girl who briefly was his brother’s fiancé learned, to her detriment, at Christmas 2005.

After witnessing the girl treat his mother like a servant for ten days, Andrew erupted early one morning and read the girl The Riot Act. The girl left the house, never to return, later that same morning—to the relief of everyone, as it turned out, including her own fiancé.

Andrew’s parents have told me that that morning was the only time that they have ever heard Andrew utter curse words, and that it had been rather alarming to have been jarred awake that morning before 6:00 a.m., hearing Andrew screaming and cursing at someone in the upstairs hallway!

The girl fully deserved what she got, by the way. I really will have to tell that full story sometime. I don’t think Andrew would ever revisit that matter himself.

While Andrew’s mother and I were getting things done the last three days, I asked Andrew’s mother to select a disc of English music that she especially liked—something to get our minds ready for London—for us to listen to.

She made her choice without hesitation. She selected a disc of Edward Elgar’s music, a disc featuring the Enigma Variations, coupled with the five “Pomp And Circumstance” marches. The performances, on the Philips label, were by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Andre Previn.

I have never listened to much Elgar, although Andrew and I had listened to Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Sea Pictures not long ago. I had heard the Enigma Variations on radio a few times over the years, but this was the first time I listened to it intently, over and over, and this was the first time I started to appreciate what a great piece of music the Enigma Variations is.

The orchestration is brilliant. The character sketches are very penetrating and very revealing. The music has the widest possible emotional range and, where called for, the deepest possible sentiment. The music is shaped very well—it has “dramatic and emotional arcs”, as Andrew always says. The central “Nimrod” variation is deeply affecting. It almost inspires weeping. The final variation ties together, beautifully, everything that has come before and closes the piece in a great and fiery blaze of glory. This is stirring music. It touches the soul. This is surely one of the greatest pieces of music ever written.

The recording seemed to me to be a magnificent one. I asked Andrew’s mother whether this was the finest recorded performance of the Enigma Variations. “Probably not” was her answer. She said she had selected this recording because the recorded sound was so fine and because she liked the fact that the “Pomp And Circumstance” marches were the coupling.

The “Pomp And Circumstance” marches were stirring, too. I had never thought of these marches as “serious” music before, but they are as serious as any music ever written, with extended introductions, sophisticated materials connecting the different march sections, opulent orchestrations and very good tunes, subtly altered each time they re-appear. I would like to hear these marches performed in the concert hall sometime. They would have a stupendous impact on an audience. After listening to these marches with my full attention, I was ready to join the R.A.F. of 1940 and blast the Nazis out of the skies above Britain!

Other than spend time with Andrew’s mother this week, I have not done much. Andrew and I had dinner at his parents’ house on Monday night and again last night. We will be having dinner here again tonight, and staying overnight. We have been getting as much rest as possible so that we will arrive in London fresh and energetic and ready to go.

Among the things Andrew and I have done this week is to select our books for the long flights over the Atlantic.

Andrew chose “Earthly Powers: The Clash Of Religion And Politics In Europe, From The French Revolution To The Great War” by Michael Burleigh.

I chose “Moscow 1941: A City And Its People At War” by Rodric Braithwaite.

Andrew was assigned the task of choosing a book for his brother. He chose “Battle For The Ruhr: The German Army’s Final Defeat In The West” by Derek Zumbro.

It is very possible that none of us will do any reading at all on the plane. However, if we want to read, the books will be there to help us pass the time. If one or more of the books is boring, we can pass them back and forth among us.

So tomorrow we head out. Tonight will be our final night with the dog for two weeks, so we will give him lots of attention and lots of fun tonight (and this being Wednesday, this is chicken night for the dog, which he loves). We will also give Andrew’s brother lots of attention tonight when he arrives.

We never did receive that invitation from the Duke And Duchess Of Kent to join them for tea at Wren House. It is possible, I suppose, that the invitation became lost in the mail. However, we have concluded that it is far more likely that the Duke and Duchess have stricken us from their social calendars.

In retaliation, we have resolutely and permanently removed their names from our Christmas card lists. Further, in the unlikely event that the Duke and Duchess ever visit Minnesota, we have decided that we will ignore them completely for the duration of their visit. If by chance we happen to run into one or both of them at the hardware store or at the vet’s office or at the butcher shop, we are going to pretend that we don’t even recognize them!

It will serve them right!


  1. TO Joshua and Andrew: Bon voyage!

    Enjoy your vacation to the fullest!

  2. Thank you, Chanteuse.

    We'll talk to you when we get back.

    Take care of yourself.