I come from America, land of the free and home of the super-sized. We super-size, oversize, and jumbo-size everything from fast-food meals to roadways. One of the first tasks I faced living in Wales as an expatriate was learning to drive on roads the width of American bike paths. Even as a passenger in my new country, I stomped imaginary brake pedals, clutched arm rests and audibly sucked in what I often believed was my last breath as colossal livestock lorries careened toward me from the on-coming lanes, with what seemed like millions of sheep eyes staring back at me in matched horror.
My husband David had taught me to drive twenty-two years ago and planned on doing so again. He had arrived in the UK three months before our boys and I, so he would have mastered enough driving technique to get me started once I arrived.
“Don’t worry Kathy. I’ll take you for rides after I get home from work and we’ll stay on the farm until you get comfortable driving on the left.” My husband comes from a family of accountants so there is no detail small enough to escape consideration, especially when it involves the safety of the children or me. He had allotted a weeklong intensive driver-training session before I was to officially hit the road.
The best laid plans…
“Please Mom, Dad, please! We won’t have McDonald’s again for a year…just this one last time. It won’t hurt and I bet Wales doesn’t even have McDonald’s,” I remember our thirteen year-old son David’s pleas had come at a weak moment.
As parents, we were trying to do all we could to lessen the stress this huge transition across the Atlantic could involve for our two children, David and Michael. As we were departing New York and were sealed into the lounge of Kennedy Airport, it had seemed reasonable to honor our eldest son’s request for his “last meal.” In fact, we had all had our favorite American fast food before boarding our plane.
I had just fastened myself into the seat--my youngest son who was eleven years-old, on my left and my eldest son two seats across the isle to my right. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard BA flight 0178 departing JFK to London-Heathrow… We encourage you to watch as our flight attendants demonstrate our safety procedures. We should be arriving at London-Heathrow in about six hours’ time…” Though convinced that the only use these demonstrations have is to keep a doomed passenger calm before impact, I had been ready, even eager to play along and learn how to slide down the plane’s gigantic chute into the Atlantic’s watery safety or don my oxygen mask before helping others similarly doomed, and then the next announcement came.