It’s hard to determine when it all went horribly wrong. I think it was when the dog peed on the living room carpet. Scottish Susan thinks it was the moment her sciatica started up, even before she set tremulous foot on American soil. Each of the bit part players would probably tell you a different story. Anyhow, the weekend involved a bad hair crisis, hundreds of miles of driving, a tsunami of tears, a missed train, a missed plane and at least a vat of Bengay. There was a blocked lavatory and a toilet paper shortage (two events that are surely related). There were (literally) high notes, including a beautiful wedding, a wonderful graduation, and an old girl’s reunion. It was all worth it in the end–but only just.
Scottish Susan aka Lady Macbeth aka The Cripple had been planning her first trip to America for years. A decade to be precise, for she has been promising to visit ever since I left London. Unfortunately she packed her bag just as her back packed in. New York City and Washington DC are not much fun in excruciating pain and even the charms of Itchy Ankle can pale. She assures me she was very keen to get here but her subconscious must have felt otherwise–she missed the train from New York.
Our plans for an elegant and sophisticated girls weekend were further thwarted by the news that not only Gretel, but her two nieces Rapunzel and Cinders were to join us from Thursday to Sunday–oh, and R and C were bringing their dog, Princess LaLa (this IS the creature’s real name). Rap and Cin were visiting Itchy Ankle because their mom had gone to Vegas for the weekend. The Blarney Abode was filled to capacity and estrogen levels were dangerously high. Lady Macbeth yelped in pain every time she moved. The dog (a little bitch) barked every time anyone moved. The children largely whined, except when in the pool, at the mall, or in a fancy restaurant–and even then, they were limp from heat exhaustion and inclined to be grumpy.
One of the reason’s for Lady M’s stateside visit was to sing at the wedding of Outdoor Matt and Kiss Me Kate. We left the sulky teens in Itchy Ankle on Saturday afternoon and drove to the nation’s capital, Scottish Susan sucking on an Advil all the way. At the reception, we found ourselves seated by a Lothario keen to trip the light fantastic. Pressing himself upon Lady M, he entreated her to dance. ” Take my friend, I’ve a bad back” said the Scottish one sourly, thus forcing the Crone to approach the dance floor rather more times–and rather more energetically–than her footwear and general physical condition usually allow. Be glad there are no pictures of this. Weddings, as a rule, are jolly occasions, not least because there is an abundance of champagne. So it was this time, but sadly I was the designated driver and Lady M had pre-performance nerves (to say nothing of a gullet full of pills) and so we were dry drunks, and very fretful with it.
Scottish Susan sang beautifully and we made for home. Cinders had cleaned the kitchen, and the dog had not disgraced herself. Perhaps things were looking up?
Sunday went well. Scottish Sue, fuzzy and disorientated with pain on dry land, found comfort in aqua-aerobic stretches in the outdoor pool. The girls swam and sunbathed. I snoozed. Happiness broke out. We arrived home at about 7pm to a call from the mother of R and C. She was in Vegas and was staying in Vegas, stranded owing to a mix-up in her flight arrangements. Big Problem. Cinders was graduating junior high at 9:30 on Monday morning. Worse, she had taken out her braids in anticipation of a smart new hairdo for her big occasion. Cinders spoke to her mother and cried. Her mother spoke to me and cried. Cinders spoke to her grandmother and cried. I spoke to her grandmother. Cinders wouldn’t speak much to me, because by then she was lying on the floor with a pillow over her head. I could hear her crying. I promised her she WOULD go to the ball and that, somehow, we WOULD get her hair done.
Five o’clock the next morning. I emailed work to explain my short-notice absence and packed the celtic cripple, the orphan graduand, her surly relatives and Princess LaLa into the car, together with the cripple’s massive suitcase and everyone else’s paraphenalia. We drove to Cinders’ home and she set to with straighteners, make-up and a hot iron. As you can see, she did a good job.
Off to the graduation where we decanted the cripple from the car with some difficulty, and stood in the hot, hot sun while those officiating decided whether or not they could admit non-parents without tickets. It would have been hard for us to blend with the crowd as, save a couple of teachers, we were the only white people there. Just as Scottish Sue threatened to keel over from a mixture of heat stroke and searing pain, were were admitted to stand behind the school band. The gym was hellish hot and the ceremony lasted two hours. Cinders would happily have left early if only her fairy godmother had thought of it on time.
We then repaired to a very nice restaurant to celebrate with oysters and virgin cocktails. See, nothing is all bad.
Mom had made it as far as Charlotte airport, North Carolina, and so the girls and Lala were eventually dispatched and Lady M and I took to our beds of pain, glad the day was done.
And there the story would have ended, for the next day was Lady M’s last in the US of A. I left for work at 7:30 am, leaving her with the housekeys. She caught the blue van to the airport at about 2pm, leaving only a whiff of wintergreen as a reminder of her visit. I returned home at 9:30pm that evening. The keys, of course, would be wedged between the rocking bench on the porch and the wall, just as arranged. Except they weren’t. I buzzed every other apartment in the building, but (wise city folks) my neighbors did not answer. I trailed miserably to Mike and Tom’s and slept in their basement.
Things look better today: Following an exchange with Scottish Susan, I found the keys under the hose, behind a bush in the front yard. I have showered in my own bathroom and will sleep in my own bed. She is back in the UK and has a doctor’s appointment. Perhaps she’ll walk again. We haven’t heard from the girls and the dog is not here. Good times.