5 Oct 2018

Furtive Fun and a Family United

My husband became sixty in August.  A year before our son, C living twelve thousand miles away in London had announced that he would be with us in New Zealand for the signicicant birthday. Our daughter M, also in London was noncommittal. A few months before the event I realised that it had been nearly five years since our family unit had been together for a happy occasion. Like a mother hen checking on her chicks I had a need to have our family unit united.

I was reluctant to influence M's decision to be here with us. I have been in a similar situation to M where events the other side of the world beckon, but you are not sure whether you should or can be there. When in contact with M I held back from asking, "Have you thought anymore about coming for a trip?" The effort to hold back grew from a gentle mental simmer to near boiling as my desire to have us all together increased. Do I stay silent or let M know how much it would mean to me to have all the family together?

M and I had an arranged private phone call one evening "to talk about Dad's birthday present." When she rang I was tucked up in bed, but when I heard her announcement that she was coming after all I was the woman dancing in the street, well dancing around the bed anyway.  M's sister was in another bedroom so my air punching and jigging to my mirror had to continued silently as I absorbed the arrangements of M's arrival. The next two months felt like I was the only one who knew Christmas was coming.

Cut out M with her buddy, Panda
Amongst the birthday party arrangements there were suggestions from all family members for activities for C's stay. Going to an All Black game (one  extra ticket furtively included,) a trip away to Queenstown (one extra plane ticket, accommodation and a car for six, not five secretly booked), all four bedrooms tidied and made up 'ready for extra guests at the party.' The furtiveness was fun. When family members and friends asked what about M? "Oh well, it seems she can't take the time off work." When asked,  "Do you think she is going to come and surprise us?" I replied, "With M  you never know. Perhaps not."  How delighted I was to be in the know. When other siblings were concerned that M would feel left out as the rest of us were holidaying I suggested having a cardboard cut out of her. We would take it with us to the Rugby and to Queenstown so that she would be in all the photos.

What I noticed most about knowing the family was to be together was how my motivation changed. I was happy to prepare for the party, and our son arriving, but I was like an non-stop train when preparing for the getting together of our family.  Family is what I am good at. I have been managing this family is for 26 years. This is my skill set. This was a chance for us to make great memories. Nothing is going to stop me.

As migrants know, any visitor inspires a tidy up. The closer the visitor the more is done. The arrival date becomes the deadline. The challenge is to pack in as many necessary and unnecessary tasks before hand to ensure you can have the best time possible: a house spring clean, digitising all the VHS films, gardening, car washing, meal precooking, getting ahead with work. D and A were shocked with my tasking ticking off including cleaning fly poo off ceilings till my neck was put out for a week; maybe an overkill, but I had a smile on my face as I cleaned.

When we picked up our son from the airport, I ran out to greet him. D and A waited to see if C was alone. Of course I knew he was. We had three lovely days to relish our son on his own. Then the day came where he and I were going out for an 'early lunch.' D asked where we were going, "It's a surprise" I said. The next two days I delighted in witnessing the surprise reaction of people when they first saw M.  M walked into A's pharmacy. A squealed and laughed and hugged and smiled. I watched as the whole pharmacy craned their necks and smiled at each other with teary eyes. When D caught sight of M in the garden he started laughing and didn't stop until his daughter was in his arms, their cheeks blending tears of joy. The youngest, I, who had been expecting boring old Mum to pick her up from the airport went from head down to wide eyed to tears and an embrace. For those in my age group the surprise was like a double banger firework. Delight in seeing M, and then second delight in realising that our family was complete.

The next two weeks I fell in love with my family unit again. We had a holiday together that we all wanted to be at. The teenage sullenness had passed. I treasured this holiday and made the most of it. There is something lovely about knowing all your children are in one place, and accessible. For those of you who have this as normality, feel lucky and love it. For those whose family is scattered, the internet is a great way to keep in touch, and when you do get together, make the most of it. Enjoy touching them, being with them and making enough memories with them that will sustain you until the next time.

For the record, what do I feel about surprise visits? I think I like knowing about the surprise. What about you?