Friday, July 8, 2011

Vacation Month of July- Week 2: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Your Mimi and the girls leaving for Scotland in 1988...

Dear Ellie Girl,

It’s been a sad week for you and I- your Mimi went home this past Sunday and you are lost without her.  When we skyped on Monday, you couldn’t figure out why she was back in that little box and you cried and stuck out your hands wanting her to hold you.  You broke my heart (and Mimi’s too!).  Although the silver lining is that you have such a connection with your Mimi, a bond that can never be broken. 

Onto happy thoughts… this week we are going to tell you about our favorite vacations (and vacations should always bring smiles and relaxation).

I am going to lump 2 trips into one- the foreign exchange programs I went on in high school thanks to your very generous Aunt Joanne.  When I was 14, I went to France and when I was 16, I went to England (and the exchange partners came to live with us here in America for a short time as well).  The best part is that my best friend Kim participated in the programs too (so she came with me on both trips sans parents)!  As a teenager, can you imagine anything more fun than a trip abroad with your favorite pal?  Now don’t get any ideas Ellie, I’m not sure if I could send you away for 3 weeks without worrying to death!  This is a letter from Mimi that she put in my bag to see when I got to France- she always knows the right things to say and when to say them:
In France, I lived with Cyril and his family right outside of Paris.  They were so nice and generous.  For my 15th birthday, that I celebrated there, they threw me a party and gave me the best smelling perfume.  Cyril’s Mom always had out the best croissants in the morning for breakfast, they had a chocolate filling!  The family made sure I saw all the famous sites:

And between them and our group leader, we saw a lot in a short time.  My favorite was the Louvre and Versailles.  I also loved Normandy, Mont-St.-Michael, Euro-Disney, and the Eiffel Tower.  
I could have spent days at the Louvre!

Kim and I met up (she lived above a bakery that her foreign family owned) and rode the Metro to see one another often.  We figured that public transportation system out fast and thought we were so grown up!  The funny part of the whole trip was that Kim didn’t speak French- she was in Spanish classes prior to going to France.  But it didn’t matter, we learned as we went.    
 The only picture I have of Kim and I together is in the airport before we left the United States (otherwise, we were taking photographs of one in another)!

I think it’s interesting the details we remember.  Right before we were to meet the rest of the students and teacher chaperone to drive to DC (where our flight to Paris left from), my dad took me to the mall and bought me The Beatles Box Set (my favorite group) for my CD player so that I would have something to do while on the red-eye to Europe.  I think he was nostalgic that day, sad that I was growing up but excited for that opportunity.  
My Dad and I leaving the house... I was getting dropped off for the big trip!

While in France, my family would send me mail every day.  Joanne’s cards were always the best; they included Polaroid photos of what they were doing so that I wouldn’t get homesick.  I saved them and they are in my France album! 
On both trips, we did spend a few days in the schools with our exchange partners.  Kim and I would write letters to one another that I have saved (I guess passing notes in class crosses cultures too).  They are so silly, considering we saw each all the time.  I guess that‘s what true friends can do, there is always something to say!

And of course, all of the exchange students went to that spot in Paris that claims if you touch it, you will come back to visit!
We are sooo going there someday soon Ellie!

Catherine, my British exchange student, has the kindest and sweetest personality ever (and the best accent of course).  We have traveled similar paths with loss and I have a deep connection with her.  And we never would have met if we didn’t participate in the exchange program.  Catherine’s mom lived in a gorgeous, huge home outside of Portsmouth.  I loved having tea in that house!  On one of the first nights I was there, Catherine and her mom took me to a park with Fishbourne Roman Palace where a theater company was putting on Shakespeare’ Macbeth there.  Catherine’s mom packed a delicious picnic dinner while we watched the show.  I was in heaven- truly immersed in history of all kinds!!!  We traveled all around England- Bath, Brighton, Portsmouth, London, Stonehenge, Wimbledon, Chichester, and Cambridge.  And I loved it so much, I could have stayed much longer to see more.  
Catherine and I with Cat's gorgeous family in 1996!

Catherine and I didn’t see each other for close to14 years before she came to Denver and spent a few days with me right after you were born (since the exchange, we kept in touch as pen pals with handwritten letters first and then switched to email and now Facebook and Skype).   
This is you Ellie with Catherine and I on top of Pike's Peak last summer!

That’s when you know you have a true friend- distance doesn’t matter.  Catherine has since had a son, a handsome bloke named Henry and you have met him over skype.  One of these days, you and I need to get to Europe.  And Cyril and I are friends on Facebook.  So Miss Ellie, I think the lesson to be learned here is that friends come from all over and distance does not have to make those friendships disappear.  And I promise you, I will get you to France and England to experience those wonderful things I did and meet the wonderful people who opened up their homes to me.  I think your Mimi has a wonderful vacation to share with you too (and I know you will love it since it’s a girls’ trip)!

Love you Ellie Spaghetti!

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie!

I’ve had a couple of days to ground my feet back here in State College since visiting with you, and your mom and dad.  And yes, the whole skyping thing on Monday broke my heart too.  Here your mom and I thought it was a good idea since you were sad when I left.  (Of course so was I and so was your mom!)   But who would have ever thought that you would become more upset when you couldn’t reach inside and pull me out of the “computer box?!”  So yes, you cried, your mommy cried and I cried…but you know what?  We three girls are very strong.  We have a solid, a loving and a forever connection!  And Ellie that means we will have many years of fun adventures and memories to collect for I love you both with all my heart!

OK… today I am writing our blog from Poppy’s car.  We are attending a funeral for your Great Pop’s sister, Aunt Joan, down in Philadelphia.  So my tea is traveling with me in one of those styrofoam “to-go” mugs!  I guess I will have to drink it quicker than I usually do as Poppy’s car might have all the latest and cool gadgets in it, but it does not have a compact microwave for reheating!  (Hmmmmm…. we will have to work on that!)

So this week your mommy and I are to share with you our favorite vacation.  Oh Ellie, I could write about so many.  Your Poppy and I have had some terrific and very memorable vacations at Disney World in Orlando Florida, but I will save those for a later date.  Also, your Aunt Joanne and Uncle Doug have graciously taken us on some amazing family trips to different parts of the world.  And even though there are some great stories to tell here, I would have to say my absolutely favorite vacation was one I had taken to Scotland back in August of 1988.  You see Ellie, that trip is dear to my heart for two very special reasons.  1.) It was strictly a girls’ trip including your Aunt Sheri, Aunt Phyllis, Great Grandmom Jones, myself and your Great-great Grandmom Mundy…. 5 women whom are bonded together by love and blood.  2.) More importantly this trip was for each of us to get a glimpse into the past of your Great-great grandmom Mundy and her homeland of which she had left at the age of 13 and returned for the first time with us 62 years later!  Aunt Phyllis did a fantastic job of putting the trip together, which started with a wonderful send off from Philadelphia to JFK airport in New York via limousine!   

When we arrived in Prestwick, Scotland she rented a car where we all piled in as she took the driver seat, which in British cars is located on the passenger side of American cars.  Well, it didn’t take long for her nerves to become frazzled because in Scotland they also drive on the opposite side of the road.  So she happily relinquished her driving duties to Aunt Sheri while the rest of us had many giggles over the nearly missed accidents!  Once that was settled we found a lovely Bed and Breakfast Inn to stay at on the outer skirts of Ayers our first night, so to refresh ourselves for the exciting week we had planned.   
And we drank lots and lots of tea in Scotland!
Once in Scotland, our trip started off with a visit to one of your Great-Great Grandmom Mundy’s cousins, Margaret. 
She was a kind woman, definitely British and also a bit spinster-y, but very hospitable.  Now I have to tell you about a near disaster here that involved your Aunt Sheri and I.  Simply put, the two of us were maybe a teeny bit rude but in our defense I think it was because we were still exhausted and not adjusted to the time change.  Here is what happened.  When we entered her house and the introductions were made, she surprised us by having a lunch and high tea ready.  Thinking that the luncheon would be an authentic Scottish meal Ellie, we were quite surprised to see that it consisted of; well I am not sure if it was Spam or Hash but either or, it was served cold and on a platter with canned peas and carrots, which were also served cold.  I took one look at it as did your Aunt Sheri and as sisters go we knew what each other were thinking.  “Yuck!”  Now the funniest part was when Cousin Margaret was serving your Aunt Sheri, Aunt Sheri tried very hard not to put any peas on her plate.  I think that was because my mother traumatized her as a little girl!  Great Gram Jones was of the generation that you didn’t waste food.  So back in Green Bay when our family sat down for a dinnertime meal my mother always put a spoonful of the chosen dinner vegetable on each of our plates.  Well, Aunt Sheri hated peas more than she hated boys at that age and she would gag every time she ate them.  Now here is my thought.  Why would my mother, who didn’t like to see food wasted, put peas of all things on my sisters plate, whom she knew hated them!  And if you didn’t eat what was on your plate, you went to your room hungry!  I remember one particular dinnertime meal when … yup… the vegetable of the evening was… you guessed it… a bowl of ugly army green peas!  And from that bowl a spoonful (probably about 10 peas but in your Aunt Sheri’s mind it probably looked like a hundred) were placed on her plate.  Well, for each pea that she placed in her mouth, she would then gag for 5 minutes only to repeat this grotesque process over and over.  So if you multiply 10 peas by the 5-minute gagging time per pea, it took Aunt Sheri almost an hour to eat them!  I felt so sorry for her and always wondered if this was a way my mother got back at us for a punishment that had gone astray!  Anyway back to the story at hand…. because peas are small, round and slippery, a few did find their way on Aunt Sheri’s plate and when I saw where they landed a took a fit of the giggles because I couldn’t imagine how she was going to eat them…. heated was bad enough, but cold was unimaginable!  And then once she looked at me, she too took a fit of the giggles and then the 2 of us couldn’t stop laughing.  Thinking about it now I guess we should have sent Cousin Margaret a note of apology.  Now that I am retelling this story, I think I will say a prayer instead and hope she hears it in heaven.  OK… as for the rest of our trip, it was the best!  We rode double-decker buses.  We saw many castles and lots of ruins and of course the beautiful Edinburgh Castle.   

We saw Scottish men in kilts and yes I was nervy enough to ask one of them if they wore anything underneath!   

We also went to a dinner theater where Aunt Phyllis was chosen to participate in the restaurants renaissance production.  She was definitely the social “ham” of our group!  We went to a Pub to dine on Fish-N-Chips and drank warm ale.  We also toured Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford Estate, which was incredibly beautiful, particularly the gardens!   
 And by the way, did you know Sir Walter Scott is a very distant relative of yours from Gram Mundy’s ancestry.  We took a trip to see and actually put our feet in the North Sea just so we could say, “We did.” 

We took a bus tour around the city of Edinburgh with another of your Great-great grams cousin’s, Jessie.  We also took a picture of Gram Mundy by one of the houses she grew up in!  And the very best part of our trip to Scotland was taking your Great-Great Grandmom Mundy back to Dunfirmland to see where she lived before her family made a new home in the United States and also the school she attended until the age of 13. 

And it was here in Dunfirmland that we stayed one night in another Bed and Breakfast Inn, which was definitely a highlight of our trip because this particular B&B was also the house that Gram Mundy’s parents were married and lived in!  How cool is that Ellie?!  That would have been your Great-Great-Great Grandparents Laurie! Watching Gram Mundy take all this in, there was what I believed to have been happy as well as sad tears of nostalgia in your Great-Great Gram's eyes.  And I also believe that because of this trip, she was able to share with us some forgotten childhood memories too.  Gram Mundy was a phenomenal woman Ellie, strong, kind and caring of all people.  I think you have some of her best characteristics within you!  Well, as our trip was coming to an end and there was still much to see, Gram Mundy fell ill.  She had been having some difficulty breathing and her chest was hurting more than usual, so the morning after we almost killed her by making her walk to an eatery a few blocks away from our hotel (she huffed and puffed and practically crawled to the establishment), Gram Mundy decided to stay back at the hotel and wait for a doctor to check her while we looked everywhere for a decent Diner to have breakfast.  We should have just stayed back with Gram Mundy because when we returned all she did was chat on and on about the loveliest fried eggs that she ever saw and the best part was that they were served to her via room service!  The doctor’s diagnosis of Gram Mundy’s ailment (cracked ribs) seemed mildly worthy of being secondary news as Gram’s “breakfast eggs” definitely took front headline!  Ellie, this trip to Scotland gave each of us a better understanding of my grandmother’s life and a greater appreciation of her/our heritage.  It was a vacation that deserves to be put into a special category for it holds memories that have family ties and heart and soul connections.  Some day when you are older I would like to take a similar trip with you and your mommy and give you a look at some connections to your past!

So I guess the lesson to be learned here Ellie is to not only enjoy all vacations and sights that you will see, but to appreciate, learn and keep dear to your heart what is important!  I hope through the years I am able to give you an understanding of who I am Ellie and why yours and my connection is so strong.

Since next week is a travel week for you and your mommy Ellie, I think we should move up our recipe/poem blog that we would normally do on the 4th week to then.  What do you think Kim?  Then the following week since we will be together again for Aunt Samantha’s Bridal Shower and Kyle’s Walk, we can blog together over teatime!   Oh how I love you both!

Till then my little sunshine girl!
Love Mimi


  1. Thank you Kim for saying such lovely things about your stay and our friendship. I wonder if the teacher organising the exchange ever imagined that lifelong friendship would be made as a result of it?

    You really must come over here again soon, Henry is desperate to see Ellie in the flesh and I would just love a cuddle from your gorgeous little lady.

    Looking forward to our catch up tomorrow
    Lots of love Catherine x

  2. Thank you Catherine! Can't wait to see you on Skype!!!