A Visit to Remember - The Missourian: Features People

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A Visit to Remember

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Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 8:18 am, Thu Nov 1, 2012.

To them, a trunk is “the boot,” a bathroom “the loo,” and a sweater’s “a jumper.” Though we speak the same language as our U.K. cousins, some words are quite different.

Last Tuesday we welcomed two teenage girls and their mum to the United States, their first trip to America — a chance to meet far-flung family they’ve only heard about and the opportunity to eat soul food and toasted ravioli, visit the St. Louis Arch and spend a day at Washington High School.

These are just a few of the new foods and experiences packed into their visit, one that will end too soon. Gill (pronounced Jill) and her daughters Stef and Sarah will fly back to Hanmer, North Wales, on Wednesday, a village about 40 minutes from Chester, England. We will miss them — what memories we’ve made.

Gill and her husband Geoff own The West Arms, a country inn and restaurant built in 1571, located near Llangollen, North Wales. It’s hunting season there now, many of the guests come to shoot pheasant, organized parties that will net as many as 500 pheasant a day, birds sold to restaurants like The West Arms, and other establishments.

The countryside is overrun with pheasant, birds that aren’t very smart said Stef, who is 18, explaining how many are killed by cars, often walking into the paths of vehicles swerving to miss them.

Stefanie and her sister Sarah, 15, go to a boarding school near their home. It’s an all-girls school, a respected institution, but not a stuffy one, the sisters said. On the weekends, they work at The West Arms as servers. Being raised around hotel guests most of their lives has made the girls comfortable, patient and tolerant. They fit in easily with the students at Washington High, where they went to class with Tate and Aubree Kitchell, my friend Dawn’s children. They hit it off so well, they went to the football game with them and spent the night with the Kitchells.

“Everyone wanted to take our picture,” Sarah said, launching into various questions they were asked, like “Do you have technology in England?” and statements they found amusing. “Say ‘helicopter,’ again,” one boy quipped, wanting to hear their accent and pronunciation of the word.

Yes, their accents are lovely, but pretty is as pretty does. The Leigh-Fords could offer tips on the how-tos of being good guests. No matter what we have done, they’ve greeted new experiences with enthusiasm and gratefulness.

Mother hosted Gill and has enjoyed turning back the clock. Stories that might have been lost are being shared. Gill’s grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister. In their later years, they lived across the street from each other, and Gill would visit them and relish her time at the seashore.

As a girl, my mother spent summer holidays with Gill’s father Kenneth and his family. Gill brought an old photo we hadn’t seen before taken of Mom and Ken when they were just kids. Kenneth is a marvelous gentleman, soon to be 90. He lives in Llandudno, a city by the sea with a promenade lined with stately old hotels. Spark and I went there a couple of years ago on a trip to the United Kingdom with mother.

On the evening that our trio of guests arrived their plane was late, and we came home straightaway to have a bite to eat. We were talking in the kitchen when the girls noticed a sepia-toned photo on our bookshelf.

“Who’s that,” one of them asked, adding that they had the same picture at their house. It is a picture of Mother as an infant.

On this visit, questions are being answered and blanks are being filled in, and in the process my sister, brother, mother and I, are feeling blessed — touched to know that a new connection with old roots has been re-established.

Reunions are already in the works.

/features_people

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