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