Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 27, 2022

Those doggone emotions!

A life guided only by feelings would be a chaotic and almost certainly miserable affair. But one without them would be cold and colorless. Yet there are certainly times when I could do with a bit fewer emotions - or so it seemed early last Friday.

Two weeks had passed since we had arrived in Germany and, as planned, the great majority of that time was focused on reconnecting with our German "kids." Nadja and Tim were teenagers when we first met them and now they each have spouses and two children. The pandemic had put a two-year hole in our annual reunions. As anyone who has ever had children knows, a baby often sprouts into someone hardly recognizable from the previous time. Baby Luna, born just last year, was a whole new addition to the cast of characters.

We didn't see much of Matthias as his work took him first to Montenegro and then the Netherlands. We met him in 1991 when he was a teenager about to enter the university. Having grown up in the former East Germany, he was intensely interested in speaking English with us foreigners who had rented a room in his mom�s place. She spent Christmas with us that year and has been an important part of our visits since. But while time changes babies into people, it can also have the reverse effect on us older ones and we were saddened to learn such is the case with her.

While travel has often been a source of great joy, it is certainly no surprise that saying "goodbye" Thursday prompted a dose of melancholy. The past two years showed how tenuous connections can be.

A touch of anxiety was added due to our Friday morning flights being booked on what might be called an "economy" carrier we had never used before from an unfamiliar airport. New since our last visit to Berlin, it was certainly needed. But new things are bound to have birthing issues, and some of our friends had shared "horror" stories, such as spending more than an hour in security and having to dash full tilt to the gate. I never have been a dasher and age hasn't improved that. So, with my mind working, getting a decent sleep Thursday night didn't happen.

But we arrived in Manchester, England close to our scheduled arrival time with no problems. By early afternoon, husband Art and I would be in our holiday home in the rolling lush hills of North Wales where I could chill. Two days later, daughters Mariya and Katie and their spouses would join us, a rare gathering now because, like our German kids, they also have busy lives.

But my relief was dented when Art said, "OK, we may have a small problem. I didn't tell you about it as I didn't want you to be concerned."

Not at all what I wanted to hear!

The car rental agency was off the airport grounds and Art was supposed to call them when we arrived as they don't do a regular shuttle service. But we were without a phone that worked in the UK. Knowing I wasn't thrilled about this surprise, he told me to stay at the curb outside the terminal and then disappeared. He returned shortly, having convinced the man at the information desk to let Art use his phone.

"All we have to do is walk to Bus Stop 'E' and the van will pick us up," he said.

We didn�t see any bus stops!

Art asked two fellows who appeared to be airport workers eating lunch nearby.

"Bus Stop E? I've never heard of it," one replied, looking quizzically at his friend.

"Me neither," the other responded.

Relaxing was definitely taking a hit.

Animated banter followed between the three of them and it was concluded such a bus stop, if there was one, was probably just around the corner out of sight.

"Good luck," one of the men said, with a sort of glad-I'm-not-you smile as we headed off in what we hoped was the right direction.

It was. Ten minutes later, the yellow transport shuttle arrived and off we went!

Half an hour later, we were on the motorway, joined by what seemed to be half the people in England. Nothing like a packed highway with vehicles on all sides zipping along at 70 miles an hour to encourage relaxing!

But once we turned into the familiar Welsh countryside on our way to the village where Art's great-great grandfather was born, the anxiety melted away. The on-and-off showers added to the effect on this country girl from overly-dry Kansas. Art, who's spent many times in the rain while fishing, left his car window down a bit to feel it on his face.

It was nice to meet Lins face-to-face. She and husband John had converted an old cottage into a beautiful self-catering bungalow. There had been some concern as they were initially unsure they would complete the work by our arrival. But the outcome was impressive.

We made a trip to Oswestry to stock our larder. After, Art drove to our little village's fish-and-chips shop. We wanted nothing more than to crash, but Art prodded me, pointing out neither of us wanted to make supper or spend time eating in a pub.

While waiting for our order, I went next door to the tiny Spar store and bought a bottle of malt vinegar. We had learned not to add the vinegar to the fish, but to the chips as the potatoes will absorb it. When they meet in your mouth, the taste is intense.

Once "home," we ate until we were set to explode. As the Brits say, "It was glorious."

So, the day that had started with sadness and anxiety ended with something akin to bliss.

Ah, those doggone emotions! Gotta love 'em!

(left-to-right) Top: Matthias' birthday party. Art, Matthias' family - wife Arlette, son Leander, daughter Helena, daughter Kassandra, mother Bärbel, Matthias; Tim's family - wife Meike, son Timo, Gloria, Tim and son Mats. Mieke and children are forming the KSU "Power Cat" figure; Nadja's family - Art, husband Matze, mother Sylvia, Nadja, son Leo; Nadja and Matze's daughter Luna with Oma (grandma) Sylvia. Bottom: our "home" in Wales; Fish-and-chips shop in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant; Art "mugging" for the camera in "our" dining/kitchen area; remains of fish and chips with a bottle of malt vinegar.

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