Of course, after the reunion, none of us wanted to let go of our new cousins. They invited us back to stay the night at Marjorie’s house, letting us know that it was far too late to get back to London. As it turns out, Claire’s mother, Linda, was in the same hospital where we parked our car! This is why she didn’t make it to the reunion that year. Claire took us up to her room for a visit. Her dad, Richard was also there, so we got to meet most of the family. What warm and gracious people, it blew me away; considering that we were virtual strangers, except for a few months correspondence. We followed them back to Billingshurst and the church where our ancestors were married and buried.
St. Mary’s Church is so beautiful. We are told that it was built in the 1700s. By the time we got there, it was dusk and the church was locked, but as we looked in the churchyard for the graves of our family, the bells started ringing. What an amazing feeling, it gave me goosebumps! Some of the graves here are so old that they’re caved in. Coming from Southern California where almost everything is post WWII, I had never seen anything like it. Claire explained that the wooden coffins eventually rot away and they cave in.
She took us to her parents house where Richard and Neil, Claire’s brother, make us a cup of tea before driving us over to Marjorie’s for the night. While there we check our email and discover that Jean is arriving at Heathrow first thing in the morning. There is no way to get there in time and I start to get really anxious. Because of 9/11 Jean’s flight was delayed and we had no way of knowing exactly when she would arrive. Marcie suggests that we call Sue and Tim and get their advice. Of course they came through for us and offered to order a car for her to be picked up and taken back to Fox Hill.
With that worry off of our minds, Richard and Neil took us over to Marjorie’s house a few miles away. We were so glad that one of them drove our rental car and the other one followed because it was dark and the road was winding, we would still be looking for it!
We both really enjoyed our visit there and Marjorie was such a great hostess. We learned all about her husband and children, looked at old photos and just took a little bit of time to get to know each other. She is so cute, she danced around the kitchen and told us she can still “cut a rug”. She even did a couple of jumping jacks. She reminded me of my Aunt Edee who was also a widow. There was something about the determination to keep going, even though their life partner wasn’t there to go with them.
The next morning we got off to an early start, having a simple breakfast with Marjorie and then heading up to London; hoping that Jean arrived safely and was waiting for us at Fox Hill. It took us about two and a half hours, but miraculously we drove straight to the B&B without a hitch. Sue explained Jean’s arrival for us and I was very relieved.
I still smile when I think of this story because I can so clearly visualize her coming out of customs and looking around for 2 familiar faces. She later told me that she looked around and didn’t see me but she saw a sign with her name on it. She thought it was interesting that someone else had the same name and hoped to catch a glimpse of them. She continued to look for us to no avail, but the man with the sign was still there. Now, here is this small Ukrainian woman in her 70s and the driver holding the sign was a rather large African man. Can you just imagine him standing there probably getting a little frustrated because his passenger isn’t showing up. Finally Jean walked up to him and said that she was looking for her daughter in-law but noticed that he has a sign with her name on it. He said the magic words that included “Fox Hill” so she decided it was ok to take the car.
Being from Southern Cali, you tend to be a little apprehensive of every unknown. Add to that the fact that as you get older you feel more vulnerable, which makes you more cautious. I once would not get in a New York car service car because it wasn’t marked and how did I know it was a taxi. My daughter that lived in Brooklyn at the time just shook her head, but really, I didn’t know and I wasn’t taking any chances. As it turned out, I took a yellow taxi cab that was twice as expensive, the driver was rude and he was eating peanuts all the way to the airport. You never know…
At any rate, she made it back and Sue gave her a cup of tea and then tucked her up in her room for a nap. We were really excited to start our next leg of the trip with Jean along. Not only had she been there 1/2 a dozen times, she has such a great sense of humor we knew it was just going to be fun!