Whilst living in England, I made frequent telephone calls home to my mother. Growing up with her, as I had – she’d always known how much England–and how much the idea of living in England–meant to me. She asked questions, often, about my life there. What I was doing . . . what the boys and I were experiencing and if an English life was everything that I had expected it to be.
One of those conversations, in particular, was my describing to her what it had been like to go into London, my very first time.
I had arrived in London via Paddington Station and had taken the Tube to the Westminster station on the Thames, just across from the London Eye. After I snapped a few photos of the Eye – I told her that I went up the stairs to street level. I had been told that I would see Big Ben at the top of the stairs, on my right hand side.
I reached street level and looked across the street. I looked up and saw Big Ben, in all of its grandeur and glory . . . just as the bells began to peal. I told my Mom that I hadn’t realized that Big Ben was so pretty or so immense. Nor had I ever imagined that it would sound so beautiful. She said that she wished she had been there and I told her that I would take her there when she was due to visit, a few months later. It would be the first time that she would be visiting England. I was very excited for her to arrive and experience everything that I was experiencing, first hand.
My mother is partially deaf. Her hearing aid was being replaced with a stronger, more amplified aid. She expressed concern that she would not be able to hear the Great Bell if her hearing aid didn’t arrive to her by the time of her trip out to see me. In the months that followed I asked, during our every conversation, if her hearing aid had arrived. By the time of her trip out to see us, it still hadn’t arrived. I had wondered, and worried, about how much of England she was going to be able to experience without being able to hear very well.
My mother arrived, as planned. It was with some concern on my part with regard to the subject of her hearing that I took my mother to London. We took a double-deck bus tour, we went to the Tower of London and we took a barge cruise down the Thames. We disembarked at the Westminster station and I looked at my watch. It was 3:58. I had just enough time to get her up the stairs for her to be able to see, and hopefully hear, Big Ben at 4:00.
I grabbed her hand and leaned close to her ear saying loudly “We have to run up those stairs . . . I want you to see Big Ben!” She nodded, smiled and we RAN. We got to the street and stopped short. She looked up at the clock tower and asked “But why did we have to run?” I looked at her and tilted my head toward the clock and said “Listen, Mom.” as Big Ben began to chime.
I was watching her face, holding my breath, waiting to learn if she could hear the bells when she began to cry.
From the look on her face – I had my answer. I began to cry.
She nodded, several times, still looking at Big Ben.
Then she whispered to me:
“I hear them, Cari . . . I hear the bells.”