It was 22 years ago this week that I became a Baba. I had no ambition to become a Baba, nor did I know I was one until the host of a bed and breakfast in Ambleside, England called me out. Worse yet: they called my dear Aunt Mary Rose one, too!
Now, readers, you both know from my previous blog about my Aunt Mary Rose how precious she was to me. And when I was 22…thems wuz fightin words! But, I have gotten ahead of myself.
Shortly after graduating college, in early June of 1988, I was blessed enough to be sent abroad by my dad…let me be clear…my aunt is no broad and Dad did not send her to me. He decided to send me to England with her. Dad had given my older brother and sister cars for their graduation and I had been a completely lousy driver. He played it smart with me. (Or maybe I played it smart with him?) All the same, he sent me to England, knowing that I worshiped the Beatles and loved all things British. He asked my aunt to go with me as a chaperon because he was fully aware that had he taken me, we would have driven each other crazy and one of us would have been shipped home in a box. Thus, my laid-back, fun-loving, hill-climbing, church-choir-storming auntie went with me across The Pond. Little did he know his responsible older sister to whom he entrusted his wild daughter was easily led astray. He-he-he. But that’s a blog for another day.
The plan was to land at Heathrow, with a hotel reservation right across from Windsor Castle for a few nights to get acclimated and take in London the tourist way. After high tea with scones and clotted cream, the tower of London and a tour of Windsor Castle, we headed out in our Citroen and see the countryside. We also had a hotel booked at the end of our trip so we could be assured secure and convenient lodging prior to taking off from Gatwick. Everything between Heathrow and Gatwick was fair game. So drove up the M Roads see Broadway, The Lakes District, Stratford on Avon and Bath as well as parts unknown in between. As we arrived in an interesting looking village, we’d find a B&B to stay in, take in the town and pubs and play Canasta in our room after dinner. Each morning we’d wake around 8 am, get chided by the innkeepers for being late sleepers, and after breakfast, point the car in a somewhat northerly direction. As the Indigo Girls would sing we’d” Get Out the Map, Get Out the Map and lay our finger anywhere down”. To further quote The Beatles, “And Oh, that magic feeling…nowhere to go!”
One place we landed was Chester, which boasts lovely gardens. It was our last stop before heading to the Lakes District which promised to be the star of the vacation.
While Chester did in fact have amazing gardens and a very amusing town Crier, there seemed really nothing else to do once we’d seen those things. So we went to the little chamber of commerce there to ask how to spend our time until we could get our Ploughman’s lunch and a hard cider. Everything the obsequious rep suggested to us, we had already scoped out and experienced that morning. “Well, then!” He said, “I suspect we’ve nothing more to offer you here! “Where are you ladies off to after our fair burgh?”
“To the Lakes district!” we proclaimed.
“And where have you booked your lodging? It’ll be crowded after all – tomorrow is a bank holiday you realise?” (that’s not a misspelling – I used the British spelling. Cheeky, isn’t it?)
“We were just going to drive up there and find a B&B” we admitted.
“Oh No! No! You MUST book a room ahead of time or you’ll not have lodging!”
And with that, Mr. Helpful reserved us a space in a stunning B&B on the main road with a view of the lake in Ambleside.
It was completely picturesque. Apart from the barley fields which were beyond compare, Ambleside was everything I thought the English countryside should be. Being that it was early June, it was also bleeping freezing–which I did not think it should be. But we were in luck. Apparently there are a number of highly cooperative sheep in the area who give of their wool so that dumb bunny Yanks like me can buy a nice wool sweater for a summer holiday by the lake. Hard to imagine needing a wool sweater for a June holiday by the lake when one resides full time in North Carolina! However, AMR (that’s Aunt Mary Rose to my new reader) was smart enough to pack a hat and rain coat because she was from Connecticut. Nevertheless, we purchased some fine sweaters in Ambleside. Which itched like the dickens. But I digress.
When we arrived at our destination, a perfectly quaint Tudor, we approached the front desk to announce that we were there and had reservations. I dutifully brought out the reservation number carefully written down by Chester’s best-ever tourist helper-guy, and before I could get the numbers out, the clerk announced, “Ah! You must be the Babas!” Thinking I had come across the Basil Fawlty of Ambleside, I was caught speechless for a moment. “Uh…no. We’re Gurnee and Fiore,” I informed the poor daft bloke.
“No, no dahling…Baba…Book-A-Bed-Ahead,” he crooned.
It meant they had our reservation. Duh. Good thing I didn’t deck anyone. Baba might have come to mean Blasted Americans Booted About. Luckily, it did not and we had a marvelous stay. It was a superlative trip. And from that day until the last time I spoke with AMR before she died last December, my aunt and I addressed each other as “Baba” in letters and when got together over the holidays. It allowed us the pleasure of reliving those extraordinary ten days together. Today I celebrate becoming a Baba. We weren’t the first and certainly weren’t the last, but it was special to us. It will stay with me for a lifetime.
Cheers to my Baba and to all the Babas worldwide on this British Banking Holiday.