We don’t have a travel budget as much as we have a free-falling hunch of a guideline that governs what trips we can afford. Me? I didn’t board an airplane until my senior year of high school. When you are one of ten children, destinations beyond the reach of the Chevy Impala station wagon might as well have been the moon. But Kristen’s wanderlust is a powerful force. So we shove our financial stresses way way down and convince ourselves these are “experiences” and as everyone knows, experiences are priceless, right?
Margo loved the Harry Potter books so Kristen booked the perfect surprise 10th birthday gift–a trip for the two of them to London (using Skymiles so like, free?) As the trip drew closer, the Brexit brouhaha got nuttier and the airfare got cheaper. Kristen and Margo were already scheduled to arrive on day 1 of Boris Johnson’s planned departure from the EU and now for a reduced price, I could get stuck there with them! Brexit ended up being postponed and it’ll probably never happen but hey—TimmyDaddy was going to London! (Admittedly this has a certain ‘Fonzie Jumps The Shark’ kind of ring to it…)
Elliott was in on the surprise and super cool about it. He didn’t feel any pull to visit England but he was genuinely excited for Margo. Grandma stayed with him and his special trip will be in Summer 2020. Maybe there is a Mothership Dick’s Sporting Goods somewhere that we could visit.
We took an overnight flight and I didn’t sleep a wink. I was a few rows behind Kristen and Margo, wedged between Johnny All-Pro business guy and a woman who immediately offered me Wet Wipes so I could join her in vigorously cleaning our area. Both were asleep within minutes of takeoff. Johnny wore an eye mask and Mrs. Clean drew in her hoodie until her head disappeared completely. I had to use the bathroom for two movies worth of time but felt bad about waking anyone. Upon arrival at Heathrow, I was an International man of misery.
All we had planned for the first day though was to see a stage production of Mamma Mia at an olde timey English theatre. Again, our seats were separate so Kristen suggested I ask this Eastern European woman if she would like to switch with me. I asked theatrical fashion so she would understand me. She replied “Sure, no problem” which Margo found hysterical. I’d guess she was from Minnesota. Anyway, the play was a raucous good time and made us forget we hadn’t slept in 35 hours but if Donna had Sophie in her early 20’s, how is she in her 60’s now?
Day two was double-decker red buses and a boat ride down the Thames. Big Ben, Parliament, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and a famous bridge–all great spots to make Tik-Tok videos for Margo’s three followers. If she can monetize her social media somehow then we could write this off as a business expense, right?
Our third day was the Grand Finale, a trip to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio. The artistry was gob-smacking. The set designs, the masks, the attention to minutiae in every facet of the movie-making process was nothing short of remarkable. By the way, Margo is in Slytherin House, Kristen is a Hufflepuff and I’m a Gryffindor. My Patronus is an Irish Wolfhound too so don’t mess with me, pretty much.
In one sense, Margo was mesmerized by the whole experience and in another she seemed so very much at ease with international travel. Financial stress is probably inevitable for me. For example, I’m told college can cost quite a bit these days. But in the Fall of 2019, we took our ten-year old girl to London, she absolutely loved it and I’m pretty sure it was the right thing to do.
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at email@example.com.