My son and his family were due a visit last weekend. It would be a garden visit, top-to-toe in thermals and swathed in blankets, but we didn’t mind. We just wanted to see them. All of our six children live varying distances away and so we have been bereft of clammy little arms around our grandparently necks for a very long time. We say knowingly to each other, ‘Roots and wings’ but we didn’t expect all of them to fly quite so far away. It’s hard not to feel a touch, shall we say jealous, when your local friend pops in for an outside cuppa with her daughter most days.
The treat when they arrive is breakfast cobs. We do an excellent breakfast cob – sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms – the works. So, the night before they came, I took sausages out of the freezer. At half past seven the following morning, I had a text from my son. Three-year-old Freddie had woken in the night being copiously sick and running a high temperature.
We cancelled and had the sausages with creamy mash and very nice they were too.
Freddie rallied and we made another date. I took more sausages out of the freezer.
It was a re-run. Early text – poor old lad puking his guts up and we ate the sausages this time in a sort of cassoulet with sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Freddie made a swift recovery and we made another date. There were no more sausages in the freezer and so I walked into town and bought some at the butchers.
This time my son rang me. Freddie had been fine the previous day but then suddenly at bedtime deposited his supper all over the floor.
We couldn’t face any more sausages and so I took them next door for their hollow-legged teenage sons.
And just in case you think I sound a touch blasé about my grandson’s troubles – Freddie’s mum is a doctor – as is his other grandma who was in attendance. I had daily updates on his temperature, heart rate and oxygen levels. My ministrations would have extended to a beaker of flat Coke and changing the sheets.
But we didn’t mind the glut of sausages. They are family and we would do anything for them although this time we agreed to leave it a week which brings us to this Friday and I haven’t bought the sausages yet.
Families. “I sustain myself with the love of family,” said Maya Angelou and hers wasn’t perfect by a long stretch.
And families have been a bit of a topic this week with the passing of dear old Prince Philip. Lord Lieutenants have been rocking up unexpectedly in cathedrals all over the country, but behind the pomp and pageantry there is a grieving, if somewhat dysfunctional family. A different family, but all families are different and some work a lot more successfully than others.
Now it took me a long time to understand my husband’s family dynamic. It was, shall we say a million miles from my own early experiences which my priest-friend likened to a diet of Mars Bars. She said that parents who thought Mars Bars were good for children might feed them three a day and congratulate themselves on doing the right thing. I grew up on a diet of spiritual Mars Bars. The fundamentalist beliefs which so terrorised my early days and wound their sticky fingers around my adult perceptions and my ability to trust were done with the best of intentions. They thought it was right to teach me to deny the world to save my soul except that I didn’t feel in any way safe.
But my husband’s family have a host of stories to tell which the church of my childhood would have certainly decried as immoral and of the devil. (I can visualise the scandalised faces!) For example, the time a bowl of punch prepared for a summer lunch of local Baptist ladies was left carelessly on the kitchen floor. Two-year-old Sam, naked from the waist down was spied standing in a suspicious pose above it, and to this day can’t confirm whether or not he added to the recipe. Or some years later, the boy’s story of their friend, Oliver, caught short in town after a skinful, relieving himself against a wall, only to be copped by the local policeman and handed an on-the-spot fine. He asked if they did student discount which still makes everyone rock hysterically when the story is repeated.
Now the bit of Easter which spoke to me most this year was in John’s gospel when Jesus, hanging on the cross, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved. He said to his mother ‘Here is your son.’ And then to his disciple ‘Here is your mother.’
Sometimes you don’t need an exegesis of a text to have something hit home and for you to take notice. Sometimes, it’s just a word, a phrase, a sense of knowing. And a brief moment in time two thousand years ago can impact on your consciousness now, and make a difference.
Families. Jesus had one. I have one. Jesus loved. I love. Jesus is real. I’m believing he’s real.
And I’m buying more sausages for Friday.