Family live too far away.
There should be a law that states all mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters should live within 45 minutes of each other. The law should only be waivered in extreme circumstances, like if the family involved can’t stand each other and would rather live on opposite sides of the universe than a relatively short car journey away.
I don’t belong in that camp. I love my family – like them even. I bicker with my sister, who is also my best friend in the whole wide world. I laugh at my mother and father, who are also (they’d hate me saying this) my inspiration and – as an adult – people who I love to spend time with. I also love my in-laws and have found two new brothers and two new sisters in my marriage to the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine.
The thing is, they all live too far away. Quite literally, at opposite ends of the country. My retired parents live in a beautiful cottage by the sea in Devon, 4 hours away. My in-laws live scattered around Manchester, also 4 hours away (although it’s usually more like 8 hours due to the appalling Friday night traffic).
It’s too far. Far too far.
Work commitments and the fact that, since January, I’ve only had a fortnight of holiday from those 70 hour weeks have meant we don’t get to see any of them as much as we’d like to. But it also means that the time we do get is precious.
On Friday we packed up the car and trailed up north. Eight hours of motorway traffic later, we arrived at the NLM’s homestead, to be greeted by smiles, hugs, wine, beer, a delicious curry and lots of toys for Frog. We woke up the next day to more family; two brothers and their lovely partners, a gorgeous 4 year old neice, a gurgling, soft and beautiful 6 week old new addition, an aunt, uncle, cousins, old friends… It was like something out of a Peter Kay sketch but with fewer grey cardigans and dodgy haircuts.
I love those huge family gatherings. As a child I would relish the chance to have all my aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents in one place. The bickering, the laughter, the food – oh, the food – the games, the inevitable tears, more laughter and more food. The first time I visited the NLM’s family in the north I felt instantly at home. It was the same.
This weekend Frog got another taste of the big family life. She carved a pumpkin with her idol – her cousin – and her grandfather. She ran off halfway through with her idol – her cousin – and left her grandfather to do most of the work. And she returned at the exciting bit with her idol – her cousin – to watch her uncle light the ceremonial candle in the window.
She spent ten minutes getting trussed up in her best outdoor gear for her grandfather’s annual fireworks display, only to watch 30 seconds before running indoors with grandma, screaming alondside her idol – her cousin.
She missed the sparklers. But that’s OK, because the adults made the most of them.
The weekend ended at 9pm on Sunday night, when we eventually arrived back home, dragging our suitcase full of dirty washing through the door. I’m still exhausted – as is Frog – but we had a brilliant time and those two nights spent with family were worth the long old haul up the motorway.
I just wish everyone lived nearer. But until that happens, I’m happy to drink in every second of the fleeting visits.Follow