Jess has a friend who works at Kew Gardens in London, and he very generously came in on a day off to give us a tour. It was very blustery: gusts of wind made leaves dance and skitter, whirl into patterns and stick to us and the stroller. In other words, it was a great day to look at trees. The first stop, however, was the cafe, where we had lunch and I fed the babies.
I am so glad we brought the gigantic nursing pillow with attached privacy shield. This is what made it possible for me to do anything other than just sit at home feeding the babies. It was sometimes a huge pain in the butt to be in some semi-public or public space using it. I often felt I was taking up too much space, or was too noticeable (it really is not possible to be discreet while wearing something that looks like a large green partial inner tube, particularly in a restaurant or on the train), or was just plain uncomfortable as I rucked up several layers of clothing and cold breezes swirled around my gooseflesh. However, I learned to care less about what other people thought and just get on with it. Besides, I was sure that other train passengers would rather put up with a certain amount of weirdness than have to endure babies’ screams and cries.
So, we sat in the cafe at the biggest table we could find. We had our ginormous stroller parked along one end, and I took up two seats with my inner tube. We were right by the door, and every time someone got near it there’d be another blast of cold air. I was glad to finish nursing, and I was glad to have a lovely cuppa to warm me on the inside in the meantime.
Then we strapped on our Ergos and set off. Trees. Such diversity, age, beauty, and rich history. There are ancient Sweet Chestnut trees at Kew, at least one of which was used to create the CGI Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter movies. There are Oak trees from the 18th and 19th Centuries. There is a bower that supports an enormous Wisteria (ok, not a tree) intricately wound around and over it. There is a fantastic high walk which allows visitors to see the tops of trees, as well as be treated to wonderful London views. There is also art, and, to Hazel’s immense pleasure, abundant bird life. Her favorite activity is currently chasing birds. Possibly she was a retriever in a former life. Or, more likely, she is just showing her age.
There are various buildings at Kew, include the Temperate House in which Jess and Hazel were able to have further discussions of pronunciation when talking about the Banana tree. I didn’t climb the spiral staircase in the Temperate House, but I hear there were also neat fish (carp) downstairs. I am becoming accustomed to the life of a parent, in which I don’t do all the things I would without children due to the need to take care of said children. I didn’t see all the attractions, since the stroller wouldn’t fit on the stairway, or I needed to feed the babies. This is one area in which I am glad I had kids older. Not seeing and doing everything doesn’t bother me in the way it might have when I was younger. Also, having a partner who’s really invested in having not only a balanced relationship but also a good balance in our experiences together as a family is critically important. Ted and I take turns in such a way that neither of us has to feel like we’re missing out. I am grateful.
Ted and I wore the babies. (I had Joanna on me for 2.5 hours, which turned out to be too long, and my left glute and leg hurt off and on throughout the rest of the trip. Lesson learned: work up to baby-wearing more gradually.) Jess ran around with Hazel, playing chase games. They also collected leaves. Hazel gave Jess so many to hold for her, that her pockets bulged with them, and Jess eventually had to tell Hazel enough was enough. She told her they could take them home and put them on paper and paint around them, which Hazel turned into the idea of painting the leaves themselves. She kept talking about that, looking forward to it. So, the next day after they dried off on top of the wood stove, Hazel did get to paint the leaves with Ted. I had another (short-lived, as I am making progress) battle between Should and Could, but Could won, and I didn’t say anything. The leaves were cool. Yay for the artistic impulses of children.
We came home from Kew tired, happy, and full of memories and stories to share, hallmarks of another great day in the UK.