We finally made it to Omaha! I thought Iowa would never end. But seriously.
Last night we camped out at North Overlook Campground on Lake Red Rock in Iowa. We didn’t get all of our gear set up until 3am–P and I are obviously novice campers.
The next morning we made a delicious campfire breakfast of eggs and potatoes and jumped in the lake for a swim before heading off to Omaha.
Here we’re staying with P’s grandpa Richard. The first thing he said as we trampled through his door in desperate search of air conditioning was, “Oh good, I was hoping you’d make it in time fore mass!” So off we went, sweat, lake-water-hair and all to my first Catholic mass just three blocks from Richard’s house.
Besides the overwhelming religious undertones, I am thrilled that we got to visit with Richard. He has had such an incredible life: a child of the dust bowl, a world-traveling member of the air force and navy during and after WWII, successful doctor, father of seven, and loyal husband.
He graciously took us to dinner and I insisted on hearing his stories of London life shortly after the blitz. Turns out he lived in a hotel for a few weeks very near where I lived last semester in the Royal Borough of Kensington. It’s exciting to think that we’ve both walked down the same streets, connected in such a distant way.
Afterwards everyone was exhausted but I couldn’t hide my curiousity. P’s mother grew up in this house and it is saturated with memories of rich childhoods. Also, P’s grandmother Jean passed away over a decade ago but her clothes still hang in all the closets, making the space a quiet shrine to her memory. Portraits of her at glamourous dinner parties and family vacations throughout her life litter the walls and tabletops. She certainly was a fabulous woman. Every once in a while P’s mom will remember her as constantly emanating a JackieO vibe, American perfection in every way.
Turning down the bed in my (separate, naturally) bedroom, I couldn’t help but peel back the closet doors to see what remnants of this woman’s incredible wardrobe still remained. I was in the kid’s old room so not much to find, but this beautiful floral blazer and a very groovy chiffon dress. In a second closet was a gold mine of Richard’s tailored suits and amazing collection of Burberry oxford shirts. P’s grandma wasn’t the only one with a fine taste for clothing!
The best thing I found was this small book with a black and white picture of one of P’s aunts on the cover, arm and arm with a dashing young man. Inside was a picture of twenty or more debs, decked out in elbow-length gloves and white gowns for their Coming Out Ball. I couldn’t find a date or list of names of the girls, but the old glamour of this scenario still has me reeling. I love thinking that that night must have been such a milestone for those girls. I can’t wait to meet P’s aunt and ask her about the experience.
This fascination for generations past is the same motivation that pulls me toward the Victoria and Albert. I haven’t gotten anywhere near visiting all of the galleries and museums in London but whenever I find a spare hour or two, I constantly find myself gravitating toward the V&A. The collections never fail to tell a story, and I can’t resist the allure of the unknown. No matter how many times I wander its halls, I always find a room I’ve never seen before.
Next stop: Denver, CO