There’s something almost mystical about the United Kingdom’s hold on so many American imaginations.
Perhaps it’s because our histories are forever linked in the feuding and friendliness of our ancestors. Or maybe it is the romance of knowing you are on a massive island, a world that boasts of scenic towns and rolling hills, that also harbors secrets in its ancient ruins.
Romance, literally, is what will fly me to England for the first time. (I say “first time” because I don’t want to count layovers in London’s airport, where we’ve often, like zombies, tried to navigate our way on our journey toward the far corners of Eastern Europe.)
The primary purpose for my family’s trip to England is for the wedding of one of my wife’s family members. Celebrating the establishment of a new family is the primary reason we are going. In that sense, romance is literally responsible.
But joyfully fulfilling a family obligation takes us to a second sense of romantic love—that of my wife and I, who were married almost 14 years ago on a snowy December day in northwestern Romania. I’ve written before about the challenges of an intercultural marriage, and you won’t be surprised to find that geographical distance between family members is one of the largest and most “felt” difficulties in a marriage like ours. Now that my wife’s siblings live in England, our families are split in three locations: the United States, the U.K. and Romania. And the more kids we have, the harder it gets to travel. Throw in immigration issues, the difficulty of obtaining visas, and the sheer cost of flying overseas, and Skype becomes the default mode of communication, almost by necessity.
Although there have been visits back and forth over the years (with my in-laws visiting the States, or the two of us being in Romania at the time of my father-in-law’s death), it’s been seven years since all of our family has been together in the same place at the same time. That will change this week.
Then there’s a third sense in which romance brings us to England—the romance of appreciation. It’s no secret that many of the literary lights who have brightened my path hail from the U.K. From the sermons of Charles Spurgeon to the global evangelical leadership of John Stott to the public witness of William Wilberforce, my spiritual journey has been enriched by so many Christians whose legacy for the world started here.
We hope to squeeze in a little sightseeing while in the U.K. That means I am going to attempt to drive on the left side of the road while there and do everything to avoid a parallel parking situation, since I can barely handle that task when I’m driving in the States.
Strangely enough, downtown London holds less appeal than the thought of traveling over to Oxford where we might tour some of the libraries, or visit The Eagle and the Child, where J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis joined with the other Inklings to discuss their projects, renew their friendships, and enter into fierce debate.
Beaconsfield also beckons me, as it was the home of G. K. Chesterton for much of his life. Chesterton holds an oversized place in my heart and mind, appropriate perhaps for such a man so large and so immensely talented.
First and foremost, however, ours will be a family trip. With three kids in tow, the youngest of whom just recently escaped his diapers, we know this will be a trip, not a vacation (wait until you’re a parent, if you don’t know the difference). Still, we hope the memories we make will far outweigh the temporary tiredness.
Posting may be a little more sporadic than usual this week, but by the weekend, I hope to get some time to write a little about our trip and maybe share a few pictures from our pilgrimage. England, here we come!