In case you missed it, Saturday May 19th was a big day. A royal wedding and the FA Cup final gave us Brits here in Chicago a real dose of home and the chance to share with our American pals some of the pomp and ceremony that makes our country so great.
Since moving here back in January, one of the things I'm most often asked is whether I've met the Queen. Until recently, I've kept my past links with the royal family under my hat, but this weekend gave me a legitimate opportunity to wax lyrical about my early career with The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and reminisce with old friends about those happy days spent at the charity's headquarters in Windsor.
Seeing Windsor looking so glorious in the spring sunshine brought back memories of days spent in this most historic town and at St James and Buckingham Palace with the hoards of excited young people receiving their Gold Awards from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh along with a host of celebrities. There are a hundred anecdotes, but what happened at the palace, stays at the palace!
Of course, there were moments of homesickness as I spotted places we'd frequented - the shops, cafes, streets and green spaces of Windsor where we had spent so many happy times - which may be why I'd been pretty reluctant to brave the six-hour time difference and get up so early to see the Royal wedding. But eventually, I was persuaded by my American friends who insisted I provide them with a British commentary. So at 5.30 a.m. I wandered down the road to my neighbour Carol's house, bleary-eyed and armed with the order of service and a Tuppaware box of PG Tips.
What unfolded over the next two hours was a joyous and beautiful reminder of home. Seeing the streets I had walked so often, swathed in sunshine and packed with patriotic crowds, made my heart soar with pride. But it also highlighted the differences in our two cultures: The British establishment's reserve alongside the bold, American enthusiasm. But what a pairing it was - far from clashing uncomfortably, it seemed, from my perspective at least, more like a slightly awkward but willing merger - summed up best perhaps by the amazing preacher with his simple, but passionate message: there is power in love. In his words: “When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well – like we are actually a family.”
I've seen this message lived out here. Since our move, we have been loved and treated, well - like we are actually family. I never expected this, I don't think any of us did. But as I sat there at the crack of dawn, wearing a plastic tiara with women I had known only a matter of weeks, I felt like part of the family. I truly hope that Meghan receives from the Brits the warm, loving acceptance that we've received from our new American family, because if she does, she'll surely thrive, just as we are.