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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Sophie’s big adventure begins


In February 2020, my youngest daughter, Sophie, landed in Madrid to begin her big post college adventure—teaching English abroad. She had no real plans for the duration of this whimsical career choice, but was looking forward to interesting experiences and life lessons. Two weeks later she was in lock down. After some long distance talks with Mom and Dad, she made the tough decision to stick it out and confront the pandemic head on. I’m sure she had no intention of meeting Henry, or as I call him, “‘enry”; as in “ ‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello!” (He’s British, you know). Henry was also working in Madrid, and the two found themselves away from home, and taking comfort in their shared predicament.

Fast forward to July 2022: Sophie and Henry are in the Skokie Cook County Courthouse, standing in front of the Honorable Judge Jeffrey Warnick, who is presiding over their wedding vows. Talk about a whirlwind adventure!

After a quick honeymoon in Chicago, Henry headed back to London and work, while Sophie stayed behind and waited patiently for her UK Visa to be approved. As weeks turned into months, I could see the toll the separation was taking on my newly-wedded daughter. Fortunately, Henry’s company magnanimously allowed him to travel here in November and ride out the Visa wait with Sophie at our house. They both worked remotely, and I was impressed with their discipline. Occasionally I would try and tempt them with lunch or early beers and pizza, but neither of them took the bait.

On a sunny, chilly Saturday, though, Henry jumped at my offer to go target shooting at a friend’s farm. In the UK, of course, gun laws are quite restrictive, and Henry had only shot a hunting rifle on a few rare occurrences. Henry shot long guns, revolvers and pistols, and put a lot of lead down range. While reloading some magazines, I asked Henry about his job. He explained that he worked in the Energy Sector and that his Economics Degree from Cardiff University was coming in handy.

I then explained to him what mattered most to me: that he always provide for my daughter; that he receive a regular paycheck and benefits; that he always take care of Sophie.

Then I took a long gun, and from about 25 yards, put five rounds in the target’s center mass. Pleased with my tight grouping, I said, “Welcome to the family.” Subtlety is not my forte.

My youngest and her Prince leave for Blighty in a few days to start their life together. What an adventure! Good luck…we love you.

FYI / Small World Penick Connection / After Pablo’s story was published about Sophie’s Great Adventure, a fellow employee of our youngest child’s at International TEFL Academy in Chicago mentioned it to him. Turns out Sophie was one of their students who received TEFL certification to teach English in Madrid.

Teaching English is a wonderful way to experience different cultures via worldwide travel for all ages. Consider learning more about TEFL Academy in Chicago at www.internationalteflacademy.com/.

P. Araya
P. Araya
Pablo Araya grew up in Naperville and enjoys writing about his experiences in the Navy, the FBI and growing up in the best town around. Contact Pablo at boblow9913@gmail.com.