My English Family: A Walk Down Sonning Lane

posted in: Family | 8

Family, for me, has always manifested in many ways.  During my senior year of high school, I was awarded the opportunity of participating in a Rotary Exchange program in Berkshire, England.  I was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Loddon Vale in Sonning-on-Thames.  (Yes!  This is the same village on the Thames river where George Clooney and his wife, Amal, purchased an estate.)    During my year abroad, I was so very fortunate to be welcomed into five different homes.  Each family I lived with opened their hearts and their homes unconditionally to me.



Mick and Pat Mascard
Christmas 1982
Christmas 1982 with Mick and Elizabeth Webb


Fred and Audrey Hewett February 1983


Easter Sunday 1983 with Rodney and Jose Huggins



I’ve been sharing stories of these families with my son for years.  I’m sure he thought for a very long time that it was all just a big tale!  Well, that was until we travelled to meet them all again.

Landing at Heathrow April 2015

For my son’s Spring break a couple of years ago, we took him to meet all of the wonderful people, who up until this point had been characters in his mom’s story book repertoire.  Boy! Was he surprised at how many people there were to meet!


Over the years, I have tried to keep in touch with many of these amazing families.  For some reason though, it has been Rodney and Jose Huggins who have made the connection so easy.  Rodney picked us up at Heathrow on an amazingly beautiful sunny afternoon.  Quickly we were loaded into what else, but a Land Rover!!  He got on the mobile phone with Jose (“me Mum”) and told her the Eagle had landed and we were on our way back to Sonning!  I was so very excited to begin retracing my 17 year old steps!


Atop The London Eye with Rafi, Diana, Rodney, Jose and Ralph April 2015



While it was a whirlwind few days, we were able to see and experience so much!  I don’t know how Jose did it, but she managed to gather as many friends and family as she could at “The Quarries”, the Huggins’ homestead.  There were over thirty of us, reuniting and reacquainting ourselves.  We found ourselves laughing about memories so long ago, not forgotten, but made beautiful with time and patina.



Diana with Elizabeth and Mick Webb April 2015

Malcolm Stansfield with Diana 2015



Jeremy Sanford, Julie Mascard, Diana, and Paul Mascard April 2015


As we come about into March 2017, I am so proud of my English dad, Rodney Huggins.  He was awarded, on March 2, 2017, the M.B.E. by Prince William.  This is the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, awarded for prominent regional achievements, in his case, for service through the Rotary Club of Loddon Vale.   His service has been a lifetime of achievement and I am proof and part of the fabric of his award.  “For God and Empire”



Rodney Huggins with Prince William March 2, 2017


For a moment in time, I was a handshake away from royalty!  I have always been, however, part of a greater Family!

A Walk Down Sonning Lane with Rafi and Jose

As we pulled out of the drive at “The Quarries”, my son turned to wave goodbye to Jose.  She had tears in her eyes.  Rafi turned to me and said, “Mom, you really do have a Family here!”  Yes, Rafi, We have a fantastic one!



La Zingara is an Italian Gypsy Woman, one whose Spirit yearns for all connectedness to the World around her.  That’s Me!!!

8 Responses


    OH, AND NOW I AM CRYING!!!!!!!
    I’m like that you would have NO IDEA but I AM!

    • 93zingara

      I do not live in a disposable world! I hold on tight to the people and places that have journeyed with me. I am thrilled when life comes full circle and we can see where we’ve been, and how not only we were influenced, but the mark we left on others! Did not mean to make you cry, but I’m so happy that this touched you!…..

  2. Sharon

    That’s so amazing that you were able to meet up with your English family and even better, able to show Rafi what you experienced!

    • 93zingara

      Thank you for your feedback! It definitely was a life changing experience for me. It has become a part of who I am. And to be able to push it forward with Rafi is a gift!

  3. Anonymous

    Oh, how I loved reading this post!!!! Gorgeous and beautiful legacy you are sharing with Rafi.

    Thank you for including all of us. ❤

    • 93zingara

      When I first thought of starting this blog, it was to give Rafi an ongoing diary of who he is in the world of his parents. Hopefully, this is what I can accomplish for him! Thank you for leaving me a message. It is great feedback!

  4. Julie Mascard

    I’ve only just found this whilst out at 7.00am on Sunday 01 July 2018. I’m crying at all the pictures, in particular the one of both my parents in 1982. As you know they’re both long gone now and I don’t have many pics of them together. Meeting up with you again was awesome and it was as if time had stood still.
    Thank you for coming over
    Julie xxx

    • 93zingara

      Oh Julie!!! I’m so happy that you stumbled upon this. That year forever became a piece of who I am today. There is not a day that goes by when I am not reminded of some small moment of my time with you and your amazing world. You all still hold a specially reserved piece of my heart. I would to LOVE to come back again! And thank you for all of your gracious friendship!
      Diana XXX

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