It is the things that happen along the way, the things that stand out and become the stories we love to tell, that make up a life and give them such rich texture.
And our family’s “life” has lots of texture!
Rarely do our plans ever end up the way we intend them to. We put a lot of effort into our trips and outings in terms of making contacts to aid in finding fun stuff to do, spending a lot of time on-line searching for the unusual “road less traveled” activities, and finding the hidden gems only the locals or the insiders know about.
But when we actually get there, goofy things tend to happen. Almost. All. The. Time.
Got time for one of those stories? I’ll try to give you the Reader’s Digest version…
When our son was in the Army stationed in Germany (back before grandkids!) we decided to take a family trip to the UK. Our daughter Melinda, our daughter, Andra and her then boyfriend, Kerry, our son Alex and his wife, Meegan joined us. Mr. Tattered put a lot of effort into finding cool stuff for us to do. Stuff that not everyone gets to experience.
One of our favorites takes place at the Tower of London. Yes, The Tower is a “must-do” when you’re in London. So what made this particular tour a story? Well, Mr. Tattered made a contact, and was able to get us a special “by invitation only” behind-the-scenes tour.
As has been the tradition every single night for over 700 years, there is a ceremonial locking of the gates at The Tower – the Brits are famous for their pomp and circumstance – and this is a fine example – “The Ceremony of the Keys.”
There was a dress code for the event – jackets and ties for the men, dresses and heels for the ladies. We’d been trekking all over the UK lugging them around, and finally we were wearing them. I don’t have any idea whose brilliant idea that was, but let me tell you, heels and cobblestone don’t mix well. Fortunately there were no broken ankles in this story, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying.
We were uncharacteristically running late, a major no-no – promptness was expected – so we were starting off a little stressed. We made it in time, and met with our guide, a senior “Beefeater” (Yeoman Warder) and the rest of our group several hours before the actual ceremony for a private tour of the Tower. This guy thought he was hysterically funny, and was actually offended that no one in the whole group thought so. He commented several times that we were a tough audience. He did tell some interesting stories about the goings on there, things we hadn’t heard in our first visit the year before, but his delivery was dry and he was somehow able to make GREAT stories pretty boring and hard to listen to. And it was a LONG tour – we were getting hungry. An element of the tour was a visit to the private area where the Beefeaters hang out and have their meals, and we were invited for drinks and dinner. We could hardly wait.
BUT, what no one told us was that you had to order dinner in advance, and we had not. After we’d consumed a few glasses of wine (thinking dinner was on its way!) our guide announced that those who had ordered dinner could come and get it, and those who hadn’t could watch them eat (SERIOUSLY!) So, now we’d been drinking on empty stomachs, and the actual ceremony was still over an hour away. We tried to laugh it off, but we were really hungry. And more than a little annoyed, not just that we hadn’t gotten dinner, but with the cavalier attitude towards our discomfort. So we drank some more.
FINALLY, stomachs growling, and heads fuzzy, we were told that we could head over to the gates. So now we’re not only trying to manage not to fall navigating the cobblestone in heels, but we’re inebriated, and just a little crabby. And as we came around the corner, there are all the “commoners” – the people with no “inside access” – waiting for the same ceremony, with the same view – dressed in casual clothes, with full bellies, no doubt.
Watching us coming up, one of them said, “Oh look, there are the VIPs!” And we just busted up laughing, wishing we had come with THEM!
It was really fun to see the ceremony, but had we known that just ANYONE could see it, we would have opted for seeing it with the regular people, that’s for sure!
As soon as it was over, we bee-lined it for the taxi stand and headed for pizza balls, encouraging our driver to hurry, worrying the whole way that the restaurant would close before we got there! But through it all we laughed and laughed and laughed ’till our sides ached, and poor Dad got a LOT of teasing!
Now, as big of a pain in the butt as it was, the story has become part of our family lore. Whenever Dad comes up with an idea, or an “insider’s tour,” the 1st question asked is “Is this another Ceremony of the Keys?” And, as much as we love to tease him about it all these years later, I think we all secretly hope it will be!