Sheryl felt the familiar sting of tears as her husband pulled their car into the dirt driveway leading to her in-laws’ home. This was her third trip here since her father-in-law passed away—a mere ten weeks after his wife of over fifty years had died.
“I’m going to start in the garage…sorting Dad’s tools. Where do you want to be?”
Anywhere but here…going through your parents’ personal stuff, Sheryl wanted to answer. But instead, she gave a half-smile to her husband and told him she’d work on the boxes stored in the back bedroom.
Stepping into the empty house, Sheryl realized that the comforting smells once associated with her in-laws’ modest home had been replaced with a musty, lifeless aroma. She banged open stuck windows to let fresh air into the back bedroom, and settled herself on the floor next to stacks of boxes. After perusing the writing on the outside of the boxes, she opened one marked “Important Stuff—Save.”
Expecting to find financial or legal documents, Sheryl was surprised to discover a box full of random pictures and letters. Recognizing her husband’s handwriting on the outside of one of the letters, Sheryl opened it and began reading.
Dear Mom & Dad,
Sorry it’s taken a while to write, but when we first got here we went to London for a few days and then I had to get my classes figured out before school starts on Wednesday. Stu and I share a room in a house owned by a lady who rents rooms to college kids. Most of them are exchange students like us. She’s really nice but some of the food she cooks is very different. You know how picky I am, so I’m pretty much starving to death. Before this semester is over I’ll probably lose 30 pounds.
Sheryl smiled, remembering how skinny her then-boyfriend had been when he returned from his semester abroad in Cheltenham, England. She couldn’t believe her mother-in-law had saved these letters for almost thirty years.
Last night we had steak and kidney pie for dinner. I couldn’t eat the kidney, so I tried to hide it under my napkin. The steak was good but there were only 2 pieces, with lots of kidney. I couldn’t wash it down with milk either because the milk here is gross. It gets delivered every day but it’s not cold and there’s about an inch of cream on top. I don’t know how I’m going to live without cold milk for 3 months.
One thing she makes for breakfast that sounds weird but is good is beans on toast. She just plops a spoonful of baked beans on top of toast and it’s pretty good. I think Dad would like it.
To answer your question Mom, yes they do have good fish and chips here, and there are stands everywhere, kind of like we have hotdog stands and taco carts. They wrap the fish and chips in newspaper, and by the time we get it back to our room, the newspaper is soaked in grease.
To answer your other question, yes it rains a lot. It’s rained every day for the whole 2 weeks we’ve been here. And I freeze to death in our room. We have a heater but we have to pay a pound an hour to make it work. That’s a little over a dollar, so we don’t run it very often. In the morning there is actually ice on the inside of our window and I can see my breath. I sometimes take a hot bath to try to warm up. (There are no showers, only bathtubs.)
And yes, please send money when you can. I already had to buy a wool scarf, warmer gloves, and a new umbrella. Plus I have to pay for the heater, and I’ve been buying lots of fish and chips from the little stand because I’m hungry all the time. Stu and I and some of the other students hang out at the local pub playing darts, and it costs me money to buy drinks there. (Yes, Mom, I do have a beer every now and then, but don’t worry, it’s legal here.)
Sheryl carefully refolded the letter and placed it in her “save” pile. When was the last time I made Brad beans on toast for breakfast? She decided to ask her husband if they could stop by the store on their way home.
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