Tuesday, February 28, 2006

WE WENT TO

Just over a week ago we took a vacation to Toronto. Daniel and I had decided to surprise Ross with a stretch limo to take us to the airport. Ever since we arrived in the USA he has wanted to ride in one. When he stepped outside and saw how he was going to ride to the airport, he went completely crazy. It was quite a treat for me too. I have never been in one and as we drove down the motorway Ross and I wondered if the people driving by us were saying, “I wonder who is in there?” just like we do when we pass a stretch limo on the road.

On arrival in Toronto, we had to wait outside the airport for no more than about 7 minutes for my brother in law Glen to pull up. It was so bitterly cold that when he lunged forward to kiss me hello I said to him, “STOP! I feel like I am covered in snot!” As we stood at the side of the road, it felt as if everything just opened on my entire face and started streaming. Glen however does not feel the cold at all. He had a light jacket on and didn’t even have the heating turned up in the car.

Unfortunately due to a three hour delay at departure, we got to our hotel too late so our plans to have dinner with the family had to be shelved. One of the benefits of Daniel’s extensive business travel is that hotel sojourns such as this are all done on reward points. Being out of high season, there were enough points to cover us booking the Presidential Suite. Our main reason for doing this was that we wanted to have accommodation large enough for friends and family to visit at the hotel so I was not forced to have to climb endless flights of stairs everywhere. Every conversation Daniel had with the hotel prior to our arrival he confirmed and reconfirmed the Presidential Suite. I was somewhat confused therefore when the porter directed us right past the Presidential Suite and although the room he directed us to was relatively presidential, it did not have the additional bed we had requested for Ross. It was late and we were all starting to feel a little grumpy, so when the additional bed got rolled in and we saw that it looked like it had been in an attic for many years, we pushed it aside and the three of us climbed into the super comfy, very large and presidential sized bed and went to sleep.

The next morning, Daniel did what Daniel does best. He got on the phone with the manager and explained that based on the conversations he had with their reservations staff, they had created a certain expectation for him and this had not been met. We skipped over the spiritual and metaphysical debate of whether we should be the low kind of life forms of people who dare to have expectations and admit to them, and decided that the suite we were in was actually ok except for the problem of the bed for Ross.

Just prior to leaving, I had received one of those emails where you are asked to answer a long list of questions by the end of which, you will reveal facts about yourself that your friends might not have known about you before. One of the questions was, “what is your least favorite color?” I put, “avocado green.” When we walked into the not presidential enough for Daniel suite, I had such a laugh to myself because if there was a surface to cover, it was covered in avocado green. Wallpaper, sofa fabric, window treatment fabric, scatter cushion fabric, carpets, lots and lots and lots of avocado green. Cheeky little universe!

Within a short space of time after Daniel’s conversation with the manager, he was shown to the Vice Presidential Suite which had an adjoining mini suite for Ross. Not only did Ross have his own bed, but it was in his own room, with his own lounge and bathroom. Ross had hit the big time – he was a happy human.

So, we settled quite happily into our very, very avocado green Vice Presidential Suite, by which time we were feeling very presidential.

On Saturday we spent the entire day at my in laws apartment with Daniel’s sister Andi and her three kids aged 6, almost three and two months-ish! This was family fest full throttle. It has been a long time since I have heard the words “Grandma” and “Grandpa” uttered so many times and it was really a pleasure to see Ross surrounded by his paternal grandparents and cousins.

The following day we shivered and shook our way over to Andi and Glen’s place and our friends
Gavin and Sandra and their gorgeous daughters under the age of three joined us. When they walked in, Ross, by far the eldest at almost nine years old turned to me and said, “Mom, it’s baby mania!” and it was.

While the children wrecked the house, Glen The Incredible actually stood out on the deck, in spite of the way below zero temperatures and biting wind, and braaied (BBQ’d). Honestly, only Glen would do such a thing. But, at this gathering of friends from South Africa, a braai felt like the obvious way for us to sit and chew the fat together. Having paid a visit to the South African food store, Daniel was blissed out on Castle Lager and Biltong (more commonly known here as jerky).

The warmth around the table was just incredible and I have not felt this much at home in a long, long time. Aside from the weather, this gathering felt to me like a typical day in Johannesburg. It was amazing. I listened to the stories and chuckled to myself when I realized how we had become a product of our own jokes.

Many years ago, when Rhodesia was liberated and became Zimbabwe, there was a huge migration to South Africa. The place was swarming with Rhodesians whom the South Africans soon nicknamed the “When-We’s”. They did this because they were always speaking about, “when we were in Rhodesia, we did this, that and the other. When we were in Rhodesia, blah, blah, blah.” Here we sat, having come full circle of our joke, sitting in Toronto constantly making references to “when we were in Jo’burg” or “when we were still in South Africa.” It was a bitter-sweet happiness-sadness thing all mixed together, happening at the same time. I longed for many other friends and family members who I have not shared this kind of day with for so long and I couldn’t help wondering about when it will be that I see them again.

There was such a huge migration from South Africa to Toronto during the first wave of political change in South Africa in the 70’s, that it got a nick-name too and became known as TORUNTO.

As the day drew to an end I could totally relate to that name and it felt really good to be there.

Jamie came back to the hotel with us for a sleep over in Ross’ suite and the next morning they had the best time in the Jacuzzi bath – talk about Kodak moments.

It was hard to say goodbye to everyone and all too quickly we found ourselves back home in New Jersey wishing we could wave a magic wand and bring all the members of both our families together in one place to grow old together.

 
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