The last time we were in London was in 2001. I was performing with the cast of Saints on the Seas with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir at various port cities like Liverpool, Hull and Portsmouth. Dave and I brought Kate and Annie with us. They were still in high school at the time, but this was August and summer break. We travelled a bit before and between performances. We spent some time in Wales, where Johnny had served his mission, walking through the thick Welsh fog through a field near Cardiff to watch a travelling acting troupe perform a bawdy yet surprisingly charming version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; climbing narrow steps through old castles and feasting daily on fish and chips. My mom, sisters Sherry and Libby, and our friend-who-was-really-a-sister, Cindy Gardner met up with us in London. By then we had already been in the UK for a week, in the August heat, and I was going through serious withdrawal from my addiction to ice. I understand the theory behind drinking liquids at room temperature, but I have genetic loyalty to iced drinks.
My grandfather and uncles made a living at sawing chunks of ice out of the frozen Snake River, before the era of refrigerators and freezers. Back then they stored it in sawdust in the huge ice house behind the family home in Blackfoot, Idaho. When we visited in the summers of my early childhood, I made regular trips out to the ice house, chipping chinks away from the large blocks, running them under water in the pump and plopping them in my mouth. I laid in a pile of soft, cool sawdust and let the ice melt away on my tongue, dripping slowly down my throat. This was the beginning of the addiction, though, like I said, I believe there are also genetic tendencies. Throughout our travels that week we had lodged at bed and breakfasts, driving up and down and in and out of little country roads lined in tall hedgerows. This was purist Britain, which meant not a cube of ice to be found. Anywhere! When we finally arrived in London Libby had booked rooms for us in a nice four-star hotel in the heart of town. First of all, it was air conditioned. Second of all, it had…yes, you guessed it…an ice machine!
I flung my throbbing feet up on the bed in Libby and Gram’s room while Dave rushed down the hall to the ice machine. He returned with a blessed bucket of the stuff. I filled my cheeks, crunched with both sets of molars, and closed my eyes, letting my insides and outsides cool down from the heat of travel. When I finally had an empty mouth, I sighed, and commented that I might give my left leg for a coke at that moment. Next thing I knew Cindy was standing beside the hotel bed with a miniature can of coke in her hand.
“I bequeath to you the Coke I was saving for Ali and Meg.”
I resisted, as is proper, and she insisted, which is Christian.
Never in my life has a Coke tasted more refreshing or divine.
We are about to board a plane to head back to London, visiting our sister Ann Marie, and her husband, Michael, who are serving an LDS mission there. It’s making me think of Cindy. It’s making my heart hurt for want of her. She is three years in heaven now. I cannot look at a red can of coke, with its silver wave, and not think of the generosity of my friend, and the beauty of England in the summer, and performing to hundreds in ornate halls in the company of the people I love. And, I suppose I am hoping that my sister has a refrigerator with a freezer in her flat, because, you know, she comes from the same gene pool.