One time during my time in London, I went out to the English countryside and visited the Queen’s personal residence at Sandringham. After I finished the tour, I hopped on an afternoon train back to London and as the doors were closing, I heard a voice call out, “Is this train going to London?” I turned around, nodded reassuringly and said yes. The two women, Darlene and Susan, were around my mother’s age, looked relieved and sat down across the aisle from me.
I started up a conversation with them – because let’s be honest, I’ll talk to a wall. But also because, even in an English speaking nation, it was nice to talk to someone from America. They told me that they were visiting Darlene’s daughter who was studying abroad in London and making a girl’s trip out of it. They asked me what I was doing in London, and I said quite frankly, that I didn’t know. We started talking about our families, and it became clear my parents were no longer living and then I said, “I’m in London because I just needed some time and some space.”
As we got off the train, Darlene invited me to dinner with them that evening – to meet her daughter who was studying abroad and the other woman with whom they were traveling, Mary Alice.
I went to dinner with them that evening and met Mary Alice and a couple of days later, visited Windsor Castle with them. As we parted ways, we talked about me visiting them in Philadelphia after I got back from London. Darlene offered for me to stay in her house. I have to admit, it is not in my personality to take someone up on that kind of offer if I don’t know them incredibly well. But something in me said to just do it.
A couple months later in January, I visited them in Philadelphia. Susan and Darlene picked me up at the airport. They had made dinner for me when we got back to Darlene’s house – a rustic and delicious cauliflower soup. The next day, Mary Alice and Susan came over to Darlene’s house and we set off exploring museums and historic houses during the day. That evening we had a charming dinner at a restaurant on Rittenhouse Square.
On the way back from dinner, we all joked about how I didn’t know Darlene terribly well before this trip and yet I was staying at her house and for all she knew I could have been an axe murderer. Darlene laughed and said, “I knew it would be fine.”
When Darlene and I got back to her house, we sat at her kitchen table and started looking at pictures from her family’s travels over the years. I came across some photos of when Darlene looked to be about my age. In the picture, she was in Greece sitting next to her now husband. I asked Darlene about the trip and she began to tell me how she had a somewhat similar situation as me when she was my age – with parents being sick and needing to get away. And so she too took a trip around the world.
A few months after that, I received an email from Darlene that she was coming to Kansas City for a work conference and could we get together. Of course I said yes and we had a wonderful dinner catching up at Westside Local.
I still marvel at Darlene’s invitation on the train. That generosity of spirit. Of knowing me for only a couple of hours and saying come meet us for dinner tonight. Come meet my daughter. Come to a West End show with us tomorrow night. Come to Windsor Castle with us the next day. Well, it’s a generosity of spirit I hope to carry with me forever.
*Check out Darlene, Susan and Mary Alice’s Etsy shop: Eva, Elsie and Ella