Many, many years ago I decided to travel to America. It was to be a short visit; a fortnight at the most. Australia had always been at the top of my list of places to visit but opportunity landed me at DFW airport toting one tiny suitcase and a snazzy duffel. A handsome Texan, complete with Hawaiian shirt, had fallen in love with me at Victoria station in London and sent me an invitation with a plane ticket, to visit his home in Dallas while he was between rock and roll tours. Nothing ventured nothing gained I thought as I made my way through customs and into his waiting arms. Twenty-five years later I find myself taking a much needed Gap Year back in England with my blue eyed cowboy and my youngest daughter. Australia is as yet unvisited and my parents have given up asking me what they're supposed to tell the neighbours and have passed on.
Before my quick trip to America I lived in many different countries. I began life in Hostert, West Germany and then traveled with my parents as they diplomatically made their way throughout the Middle East. When I graduated from London University I moved from the hustle and bustle of England's capital to a small island off the coast of France. Here I learned that the Guernsey patois had no words to adequately express the urgency of putting off doing something until the morrow.
My next move was to Southern Andalusia where all time as I knew it ground to a halt. This complete abandonment of the clock could only compete with God. Lunches stretched for hours, siestas were mandatory until 5pm, dinner was taken, with children, at 10pm or 11pm and in August the whole country closed so that everyone could go on holiday. After a couple of years of Mediterranean living my biological clock began ticking and I was ready to pack up my tiny suitcase and snazzy duffel to head across the pond, which is where my story began.
My husband, the handsome Texan with blue eyes, who loved me at first sight, and then comforted, honoured and kept me in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, remains a faithful and perfect Southern gentleman. We have four grown children aged 26-20 who were my guinea pigs when I accidentally stumbled into the world of homeschooling. They willingly acquiesced for the fifteen-year lifespan of Wildflower Academy, the fancy name I affixed to my one room schoolhouse.
I became the mother of the year for allowing: snakes to co-habit with us and shed their skins in my bath-tub; raccoons to learn how to swim in our pool; baby squirrels to be bottle fed every three hours and abandoned opossums to cling upside down from my hands by their tails. As luck would have it I single handedly disposed of the snakes, once my boys were college bound, by airing them outside one afternoon under the brutal Texas sun, but no amount of mesh, owls or bee-bee guns will discourage the squirrels from returning to the 'place they remember with fondness' and nesting each winter and spring in our chimney.
With children under my feet every waking hour I insisted that they pursue one common activity at a time, and that it be under a roof, I may have spawned outdoors types, but I am not a member of the jolly hockey sticks brigade myself. First came gymnastics. With this intense sport I developed a resistance to crowded, chalk filled gyms, hard bleacher seats and the smell of sweaty gear. These skills stood me in good stead for the next activity, ballet. I soon discovered that a dancer's bag seriously challenges any other sports bag when it comes to odiferous stenches! As the children grew we transitioned to our final common activity, theatre. Grease paint and dust are the over-riding nasal ticklers here. We still volunteer, perform and work at the local community theatres in Garland and more recently, London. Directors and producers quip that all it takes is one phone call to the McNeny household to staff their shows.
The children have now all graduated from homeschool, three have also graduated from college and one is on the cusp with only a few weeks left in England where she is honing her performing arts skills in Essex!
We solved the problem of looming empty nest by packing our bags and heading to London for a fashionable Gap Year. Our youngest daughter joined us to complete her final year at college in Essex where she has been for most of the time, only joining us for odd weekends when she needed a good home cooked meal and the Easter holidays. My Southern Gentleman and I learned how to live as a couple having only ever had children on our minds and we found that we really rather liked it.
Now we are returning to America and ousting our oldest sons from our house, sometime in the not too distant future I hope since we have grown fond of empty nesting. We will commence the next part of our lives with the promise of independence, our own business and grandchildren that we can spoil to death and then hand back!
When I'm not rushing around volunteering and walking in ancient woodlands, I enjoy reading and thinking. My children have threatened to take my books away from me if I don't text them when I'm on my way home; to make me watch television for several hours if I can't find time for them when they're available on Skype, and to create a Facebook account for me the next time they catch me sitting in my room alone. I have remedied the latter by starting a personal blog, guest writing for Vibrant Nation and hosting a weekly show on Toginet Radio so that I look as though I'm wasting time on line!
If I'm not reading or thinking I capture my ideas on paper, screen really, and contribute regularly to my writing group who listen patiently to my memories and give me encouragement whether I deserve it or not. My husband, the gorgeous Texan mentioned above, and I share dinner dates at home each weekend, we reckon that our food is infinitely better than anything a local restaurant can set before us. We have the added fun of tasting while we cook, chopping veggies side by side, creating sauces and indulging in witty, or so we think, conversation.
Our dream of opening an un-plugged retreat centre is getting closer and closer as we anticipate our return to the U.S. in less than a month.
And I say, "Be bold and the Almighty will send in the troops to help you!" Who knows what this next year will bring? Tune in to my show, The Sociable Homeschooler,to find out, first hand, on Fridays at 11am CT.