I'm writing this at 35,000 feet on my way to London. I've stolen a week away to visit my BFF Debbie and thought about.when, well.more of how we met.
Christmas Eve, 1995 Debbie was my next-door neighbor on Honeywell Road. I locked myself out of my house, with Luke and Sophie in tow. We were on our way to a Christmas Eve tree trimming party, but before we left the house, I hit the switch that dead bolted and locked the door. I remember shutting the door in slow motion, yelling NOOOOOOO. as I realized what a stupid thing I had just done. But with presents in hands, rushing to get the taxi, yelling at the kids to hurry up.it happens. Just not on Christmas Eve.you hope.
I was in full panic mode when we returned home. A slight drizzle, two kids, a single Mum, no cell phone and no way to get inside. I looked up and down the street for a charitable Christmas face.nothing. I hoped Santa might even be on the roof so when he made it down the chimney the jolly old elf could let us in. No luck there either.
Three doors down there were lights on, a happy Christmas tree in the window, the mantle decorated with red roses, white candles and beautiful greenery. The fire was roaring. I thought, oh, God.it's Christmas Eve I can't bother them, they'll have family, friends, they could be finishing dinner or playing games. If only I had my cell phone. But I didn't, it was safely inside the secured house. Then I thought, well I'll just ring the doorbell, ask if I could use the phone and sit in front of our house waiting for the locksmith to turn up - yea right, Christmas Eve? Locksmith?
I bravely walked up to the door, rang the bell, now more than a little wet and cold. Gorgeous Debbie answered the door with a glass of chardonnay in her hand, still laughing at the Christmas conversations taking place inside her warm toasty home. She took one look at the sad trio, and immediately asked us in. Almost equally immediately Sophie and Deb's daughter, Chessie, became instant friends. Without taking her coat off Sophie ran upstairs after Chessie to "play." Luke made his way up and it's been giggles and laughter ever since for the three of them. They're still close friends, in spite of the four thousand mile distance.
Deb planted a glass of chardonnay in my hand (perfect!) and ushered me into the kitchen. I actually think Debbie and I beat Sophie and Chessie on becoming immediately best friends.
There was no need for a locksmith; Peter (Deb's husband) declared all he needed was a coat hanger. So off to my house he went with his assistant, Brian, trailing behind him. I was relieved they didn't admit defeat when Peter figured out they would have to scale a wall and drop themselves into the garden, use the coat hanger on a back door, then open the dead bolted very secure front door. Not that I'm calling either of my knights in shining armor chickens, but the Chateauneuf-Du-Pape they consumed added to their courage and was definitely to my benefit. At that point, the six-foot wall and six-foot drop on the other side, was nothing for those two. Peter and Brian were sure they could leap a tall wall in a single bound. Slightly muddy and ready for another drink, they had the door opened in fifteen minutes, with Deb and I, their cheerleaders, waiting for them at the wrong side of the front door. So with the door and our hearts now open, back to Debbie and Peter's we went - a tradition that continues to this day.
I'm staying with Deb, in Wimbledon. We plan our traditional friends activities. Meeting up with our little group, the things we used to do when we lived a cup of tea away. We'll be cooking on Friday, for a traditional curry night and round out old home week with our other old neighbors from Honeywell Road Margie and Terry.
Everything I miss about London can be summed up with one word - Friends.
...Christmas was a special time on Honeywell Road. The street was alive with house gatherings. We'd go to the Christmas Eve service, then light dinner at Debs (we were never locked out on Christmas Eve again), presents and a champagne breakfast on Christmas day at Margie and Terri's, then our Christmas lunch. Debbie and I always made it a joint effort with family and friends galore.
In a city as big and sprawling as London, it was wonderful to find Honeywell Road, a little street nestled in between the commons in Wandsworth. It was a place where Bob Dove, the butcher, delivered your chickens, served minced pies and mulled wine on Christmas Eve morning to everyone who picked up their turkeys. The turkey pick up began at 5:00 a.m. with scores of people wrapped around the corner building and up Northcote Road. It was a big city, but village-y neighborhood. Numero Uno, our favorite London restaurant to this day, was like eating at home. Franko and Mario were always there greeting us with a smile and a glass of prosecco.
To find a neighborhood like that in the hustle and bustle of a metro-cosmopolitan city was special, and all the friendships that developed were special, too. I will never forget what happened the time I luckily forgot my keys, dead bolted the door and left my cell phone at home. I'm so glad I did! Happy Christmas everyone.