It was early in my career as a mom and entrepreneur. I had relatively recently had a baby and moved to Los Angeles, from my beloved NYC. And I really really did not want to give up acting. It’s part of my life’s blood and I love it. I also really needed to get out of the house sometimes. My son was deep into his terrible twos and practicing for a future career in opera, loudly exercising his lungs on a daily basis. So, I did what any young mother would do. I dressed up as a princess and left the house…. to perform at schools, libraries and birthday parties, basically any place that would hire me. My acting friends in New York would always gently kid around with me about my obsession with interactive theatre, but I always loved including the audience very actively in my shows. It made theatre come alive in a manner that really brought the audience into a free-wheeling imaginative space.
I was returning home from some frolicking event and passed by a sign that said “The British Store”. Whilst not born in Britain, I was certainly bred there. That breeding involved consuming and appreciating the delicious chocolate and sweeties invented by the British Empire. From Flakes to Crunchies, from Turkish delights in their pink wrappers to Sweet Tots and Rowntree’s Fruit Gums- these were some of the most cherished memories that I had of my teenage years in London. So with sugar lust in my heart I took a left and parked outside the British Store.
“Hallo Princess!” An amused Brit greeted me.
Always in character, I curtseyed and managed not to fall. It was the most delightful store. Michael and Pamela were the shop-owners. He was retired from British Airways, and such a gentleman. Pamela was the consummate mum, with all the years of experience that I lacked. The shop had everything my little heart desired, from Ribena to mince pies, to spotted dick and shrimp cocktail crisps and of course all the delicious chocolate and candy anyone could ever want. All that deliciousness was squished in a small neighborhood shop that one might find on any high street in England.
Curiouser and curiouser, Michael and Pamela were fascinated with the costume and what exactly did I do for a living. Just as I had purchased half the chocolate in the store, and was staggering with my sugary treasure to my minivan chariot, the two store-owners huddled in a corner and brightly asked if I had a moment.
I deposited the treasure in the car, took out a Flake, ‘cos who can resist, and asked how I, Princess Rosy Rosebud could be of assistance. Apparently, Michael and Pamela, had a 40th Wedding Anniversary coming up and wanted entertainment at the party. Would I be willing to help them out, at a reasonable price.
“Of course!” I was a princess there to serve the people. Although I had no clue how I would go about entertaining a whole group of Brits and Americans. But, as noted, I am an interactive theatre geek and there must be plenty of stories to tell after 40 years of marriage.
The night of the grand party arrived. I had spoken with the children and grandchildren about their parents and memorable moments over the years. There was even a phone call over the ocean to the kids still living in the home country. And there was one story that every single one of them remembered. The tale of the trifle.
Trifle, for those of you not familiar, is a traditional British desert made up of layers of custard, lady finger biscuits and jelly or jello if you’re American. This is all topped off by the entire desert being generously doused in a delicious liquor of the chef’s choosing and fresh whipped cream. Trifle takes time and love. It is generally served at a celebration of some sort or as part of a Christmas feast. A youthful Pamela, as the story goes, had made this desert for the family on a special day. An equally youthful Michael had been working hard at his job earning his keep and was a tad tired when he came home that day. With youth comes ignorance and inexperience. Michael, had apparently not learned, that you do not EVER EVER criticize your wife’s cooking, especially when she has multiple young children under her feet. All in good fun, there was some joking around about the Shepherds Pie. Perhaps there was a comment that the peas were a little too mushy. Perhaps there may have been a joke about the beef being a little dry. All in all, when it came time for the trifle to make it’s celebratory appearance – Pamela in her magnanimous generosity decided that Michael should fully enjoy the trifle as she ceremoniously dumped it over his head. Whilst in a different family this could have led to a fatality, all members of the family remember it as one of the funniest moments of their growing up.
Thus, it was time to retell the story many years on. One of the sons dressed up as “mum” – feather boa and fancy hat. Another son dressed up as dad, coming home in his British Airways uniform. The girls played the roles of the kids and included some of the grandchildren. I, as Princess Rosy Rosebud, waved my magic wand. We were transformed to another place and another time. There was not much more that I had to do, as most of the people enacting out the performance, had been there for the live version of “This is Your Life!” those many years ago. A jolly good time was had by all, and the kids had requested that trifle be served for desert at the 40th Wedding Anniversary.
Here’s the kicker. I visited Pamela and Michael in their shop, The British Connection, a few weeks later. As we laughed and reminisced over the party, Michael and Pamela chortled…
“You know, Princess Rosy Rosebud, we thought we were hiring you to just do the entertainment for the little kids. The misunderstanding brought us the most wonderful anniversary we could have wished for. Now, you can have a standing discount at the shop!”
This is my life!
The British Connection is alive and well in Torrance, CA. Please mention my name if you visit. Perhaps they will share some trifle with you.
The British Connection — 4413 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90503