your stories

Natasha’s story

Liz met Natasha during her junior year in Scotland.  While the two at first eschewed one another–two American girls only wanting to make British friends–they could not help but become friends by the end of the year.  Natasha’s memories of their mad cap road trip through the English countryside explain why:

I met Liz just over 20 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland while we were both doing our junior year abroad at Edinburgh University. We had some mutual friends, and while we both doggedly avoided hanging out with other Americans, we quickly fell into an easy friendship based on a common love of pints, travel, and making fun of Liz’s ridiculous flatmates (one used to time everyone’s showers – on a stopwatch –  then freak out about the hot water consumption).

Liz and I went on two road trips together that year. The first trip was in a tiny, rented car with two other friends, in the middle of a freezing, dark, Scottish January. As we sped away from Edinburgh and headed north toward the most northerly tip of Scotland, we discovered, oh joy, there was a tape deck! Then nearly cried when we realized we only had one tape. The Indigo Girls, no less. I can’t listen to Closer to Fine ever, ever again. We stopped for the first night in John O’ Groats at the tippy top of Scotland, where after a freezing night in the local hostel, took a boat across to one of the Orkney Islands. We hitched to these amazing Neolithic ruins in the middle of field and on the way back to the ferry, got caught in a horrendous frigid downpour – I still thank the kind farmer who picked us up and delivered us, soaked and bedraggled, back to the dock. We drove back south through the Highlands, complete with a spectacular, fog-wrapped view of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the British Isles. We returned to Edinburgh on a Monday evening, happy, a little stinky, and full of stories. When I got back to my flat, my roommate Elsa greeted me and my friend Cat, who was with us on the trip, at the front door. She looked drawn. I sort of brushed it off, thinking she had a few late nights at the pub. She sat patiently while Cat and I chatted about our weekend. Then she took a deep breath, looked at us and said, “Sue’s dad killed himself over the weekend.” Sue was our other flatmate, a sweetheart from Dorset who grew up on a sheep farm and had spent the year before college working in Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Calcutta. I struggled to digest the news, Cat ran into the bathroom, and after sobbing for a good 10 minutes, I got mad. Mad at the thought that a parent would do that to their family, mad that I hadn’t been home that weekend to help Sue when she got the news. And after those thoughts swirled and settled down, I remember thinking how unfair it was to Liz. Her parents didn’t have the option of making that choice. I’m still mad about it.

Our second road trip was during the first week of our incredible four-week-long spring vacation. Liz and I met up in London at her mom’s friend Janey’s house in Kensington. What a beautiful, homey place, smack in the middle of town. I twice soaked in this huge white clawfoot tub, and for years after that visit, bought the Crabtree and Evelyn coconut oil shampoo Liz had perched on the edge of that tub. We headed west from London in Janey’s car. We stopped for gas. We drove a little more. We stopped for gas. We drove a little more. WE STOPPED FOR GAS. On and on this went, both of us panicking we were going to run out of money before we’d even eaten anything or paid for a hostel, Liz pipes up, “What’s that thing?” pointing at the choke. It was pulled all the way out. We laughed til it hurt. After the choke fiasco, and settling into a good rhythm heading west toward Bath and Cornwall, Liz told me the story of her family. She was driving at this point(thank God, I think I would have taken down a few fences and sheep had I been behind the wheel), and I’ll always remember her profile as she talked. She was so calm, so solid, and so enrapturing. She talked without interruption, I think, for at least an hour. I sat with my legs crossed, often silently crying, and looking at her with a sense of awe. How did she get through that? How is she dealing with it now? How does she go on? This was only about five years after her mom died…and here she was, strong, graceful, and so articulate about the most painful things any child could experience.  I’ve always adored Liz, and now after reading the book, meeting her kick-ass, wonderful siblings, I adore her that much more.

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