My mom grew up in Sunderland and never even left the city until she was in her early 20s. She won a pageant — Miss Camay — and got the attention of Pan Am. When Pan Am flew her down to London for a meeting, she and her mom — my nana — were so excited at the prospect of going somewhere as far and exotic as London.
Nana used to live on Nettleham Road in Sunderland, and this is the house we used to visit when we were growing up. Dave and I set out to find it; I hadn’t been here in about 15 years so the details were fuzzy.
I have clouded recollections of the entryway to the house, the stairs, the kitchen and the backyard, but I couldn’t remember the exterior all that well. Granted, my nana hadn’t lived there in over a decade so I’m sure things had changed.
Being that my mom is from northern England, you’d think I have a bevy of relatives there. My extended family happens to be quite small — I only have 3 cousins total! But I do know a dear friend of my mom’s from childhood. We hadn’t arranged to meet up, and I felt a bit rude popping by unannounced, but Dave assured me when a visit involved a 6,000-mile, transatlantic journey, unannounced visits are acceptable.
We found her home — we only had to cross 14 roundabouts to get there — but no one was home. We were about to leave and a gentleman pulled up to the house. When I inquired about May, the gentleman said, “Are you Muriel’s daughter from California?” It was just like walking into the Cheers bar — if they greeted with long personal descriptions rather than names.
May arrived shortly thereafter and we had a lovely tea with her.
Now for my Sunderland family, my aunt, uncle and cousin live in Peterlee which is about 13 miles from Sunderland. My cousin Rachel visited us in California a few times, but I hadn’t seen her in nearly a decade.
We then met up with Rachel and her boyfriend Andy for dinner at a local pub. Really delicious food with great company.
We depart Sunderland tomorrow morning and head south. Seeing family has been the highlight of the trip thus far!