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It’s time to play let’s pretend

by Jan Wheatcroft

As I sit in my house this warm evening, I think of what I have traditionally done at the beginning of the new year. Normally, I begin to make plans for spring/summer travel. I choose where I will go and then begin research on the choice of plane travel. This year I would choose to go to visit my dear friend and travel companion Frances in London where we would visit our (my) haunts of flea markets full of treasures to bring home and turn into my own individual art forms. 

We would also visit a few of our favorite restaurants. First in line Sagar for papadums and talis…Indian food of course. Then on to spending a day with the gang from our past in Skyros, and then visit with Frances’ lovely family both in London and on the South Coast. Perhaps there would be time to visit England or Italy or France, or wherever our fancy could take us. 

Oh it sounds so delicious to be out there doing these familiar, but adventurous things. All are experiences I have had every year with great satisfaction, but as with all things there are changes, new experiences, and unexpected developments which keep one coming back over and over. 

So after I establish the dates, I have to choose the airline. Usually I have flown on New Zealand Air in Premium Class, which is much more comfortable than tourist class in seating, care and food. However, New Zealand announced it was canceling its flights from L.A. to London, so I would have to check around. 

There is British Air, which is okay, but not up to the quality of New Zealand. But they do get you to your destination. I have to also make plans to connect to a flight to Stockholm, Sweden, which makes up the second half of my trip. Now that I have made my travel plans, I need to sign up for travel insurance. I choose a good, basic travel plan that covers all sorts of dire experiences that might happen, plus coverage for loss of luggage, delays, etc. Check my passport…is it still good? As the time gets closer, I drag out the suitcase (with wheels) and the under the seat bag (with wheels). How did we drag around those heavy wheel-less elephants in the “early” days of travel? 

Pack and unpack and repack, stuffing gifts into corners and leaving room for the things I will bring back. Out comes the green backpack, where I will have my phone, medications, and all necessary emergency items. I cannot forget money, tickets, a book and my small notebook which has all my contact information, travel plans and dates and a place for me to take notes. It used to hold travelers’ checks (which are no longer used), so I need to take special care of my debit card for sticking into bank holes and gathering up the money. There, now I feel ready to go. Then time to call the car service to make a reservation to go to the airport. Let’s not forget the lines to wait in and bags hanging off my body.

The second part of my trip will be to fly from London, Heathrow to Stockholm, Sweden, a flight that lasts about two-and-a-half hours and is not an upgrade (too short to make it worthwhile). There I am met by my friends, Susanna and Christer waving and jumping around and am escorted off to their Volvo (of course) for the drive north to their red house in the garden, out in the country. We are surrounded by fields, farms, cows and horses. Did you know that there is a law in Sweden that a horse cannot be alone in a field but must be with another horse? I am always on the lookout as we drive along to see that horses are always with friends. We lead a lazy life out in the countryside; lazy meals often eaten outside, trips into the small villages, glasses of wine in the evening with a snack eaten in the garden before supper and nice long chats. Susanna and I have one long day traveling by bus, train and subway into Stockholm to explore and we always visit my favorite shop for lovely cotton clothing. We might get coffee, visit a museum, travel by boat to visit a nearby island. There are so many choices. In the next days we are sure to take a drive to somewhere special, to visit friends, and for sure to walk down the road to the bee keeper’s wife’s house for a visit and see what her latest creations are. She is always doing new things. And before I know it, the time has flown and it is back to airports, planes and waiting in lines before I am home trying to find the Super Shuttle to Claremont, Pomona and beyond. 

And then it is home; once settled, did I ever leave? Well, this time I didn’t. It has all been in my heart and my head and has drawn on the memories of wonderful trips in the near past. And you can see what is special about this way of travel. Planned but left flexible and how it works with other peoples’ schedules. The reality is I don’t get much further than the market. A walk is a big deal. I go to physical therapy one day a week and even if I wanted to I probably couldn’t get into these countries or home again. I am lucky that I have my memories and that I have been to so many places. But I long to see my friends again and soon. A hug is better than a Zoom. We make the best with what we have. And so I go back to the weaving loom to create a fantasy scene of animals playing together. 

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