In 1980, my husband returned from three months in Illinois, and our 2-year-old daughter did not recognize him.
The moment was painful but short-lived, and it served as a reminder that the love of our children must never be taken for granted.
A week or so later, we waved goodbye to our tiny village in Wales, U.K., and began our “American Adventure” in Crystal Lake. What better name for our new home for the next two years?
The plane journey was fun, and our 5-year-old son was thrilled with being able to go into the cockpit and meet the pilot who gave him his own log book.
I found it only the other day: 28 years old and in pristine condition. I credit the pre-911 airline crew for creating the right mood for the start of our new life, and I wish I could tell them.
I was prepared to relinquish, for a short time, village life where nobody was a stranger and young and old all helped to bring up everyone’s children. “It takes a village to raise a child” was certainly true in our case.
We walked into our new rented house, chosen by my husband and furnished eclectically by him with the help and generosity of his new acquaintances and neighbors. On the table was a plate of cookies and toys for the children.
Before long, I was walking to school pushing my daughter in her stroller, chatting to other mothers and watching my son run ahead with his new friends.
Apart from the landscape and the accents, it was not much different from life in Wales.
Our social life gathered momentum, our daughter began school at a wonderful Montessori pre-school, and I was able to assure our Welsh relatives that we were a long way from Chicago and Al Capone was not a threat.
Two years later, we had the chance to move south for my husband to set up a business on the eastern seaboard. I asked a friend from Minnesota where she would live if she could choose, and she said, “The Carolinas.”
I pressed her to be more specific, and here we are in South Carolina.
We were welcomed by everyone we met, and Charleston and Summerville felt like home. I eventually returned to teaching and recently retired from a long and happy career. I am thankful for the many students who stay in touch, or suddenly, to my surprise and pleasure, contact me on Facebook. I continue to paint, and I am proud to be a milliner.
We have a huge family now. Our U.K. family members who continue to be wonderful all these years later, and our American family composed of dear friends without whom we could never have made it through the difficult times.
The toddler who didn’t recognize her father is now married with 6-year-old triplet girls.
Our American family supported all of us throughout her worrying, difficult pregnancy and were there when the babies arrived two months early.
They plugged in heart monitors when they became unattached, and helped with feeding, put up with the crying.
One even stayed the night so that mother could sleep.
Six years later, one has moved to West Ashley but others are still neighbors. And, our son and his wife moved from London to Connecticut, making frequent trips to S.C. to see us all.
Our U.K. family sent lovely hand-knitted hats and cardigans and lent support from afar.
Sadly, the girls’ great-aunt passed away this year. She was moved to thank MUSC by continuing to knit hats for NICU babies that she sent in “brown paper packages,” yes, “tied up in string.” I wish we had counted how many.
We never did return to Wales after a two-year “American Adventure,” but we remain loyal.
I am thankful for the light over the Welsh hills beneath moody grey skies. In minutes, it turns them purple to grey to green to ochre or even makes them disappear. It is like no other.
I am thankful for the light over Lowcountry marshes. It turns them brown to crimson to orange to bright green against the bright blue reflection of the cloudless sky. It is like no other.
And I am thankful for blood relatives and our American family.
Thanksgiving dinner is going to be loud, chaotic, and full of the humor of 6-year-olds, 70-year-olds and everything in between.
No doubt I’ll argue with my husband about who makes the better gravy. I’ll squash into my tiny allocated space at the table, and after raising my glass to absent friends and sharing fond memories, I will marvel at how it all happened.
One minute, I was at a mother and toddler playgroup in a Welsh village, the next, I am sitting with some of my huge British/American family trying to remember if I took the pumpkin pie out of the oven.
Meyriel Edge, who lives in Summerville with her husband, John, recently retired from teaching art at Ashley Hall and is concentrating on painting, writing, millinery and being Supergranny to her granddaughters.
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