For the last few years, we’ve tried to go up to London, to see the Christmas lights and have dinner together. Not anywhere particularly posh, but just to be together, somewhere different, where I don’t have to do the cooking. Last weekend was the 2017 family meal.
I wasn’t sure if we’d manage it this year, as only Husband and I were at home, and everyone else would be travelling from different parts of the country, but they all seemed willing, so I booked a table and hoped it wouldn’t snow. It didn’t, but it did rain, which made the event damper than planned, but it was still nice to see everyone.
We arranged to meet at 5:30pm at The National Gallery. I chose this time because it was an hour before our restaurant reservation, and my family, whilst wonderful, are somewhat unpredictable when it comes to times and trains and going in the right direction. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say they are very predictable, and I knew it would be best if we met ahead of time. As I guessed, one child arrived on time, with partner, in arranged place. One child texted to say they were at a station in Hertfordshire, the other was silent, so we assumed they might be on a train to Edinburgh. Nothing unexpected there.
To be fair, we were all together, in the restaurant, at the correct time. We had a lovely time together, lots of good conversation and teasing and general family bonding stuff which goes to make up the best memories. We then wandered around Covent Garden, and through Leicester Square Christmas Market. They did have security on the gate, checking bags, and one person had with him several large bags, hauled down from uni; but when he mentioned they were full of dirty washing, the security were surprisingly unkeen to search them.
We then had a quick look at China Town, before deciding the weather was too awful, so went and camped in the bar of the Curzon Theatre for more chat and cups of hot chocolate.
My family does best when it’s contained in a restaurant or bar, as wandering around places never works. This might be due to the general unsuitedness of Husband and I, who are both bossy leader types that dislike following others. (A matchmaking site would never have put us together, even though we do actually have lots of fun together. Sometimes I think God just wanted to spare two other weaker people, who would have been squashed by our dominant personalities!) The problem is, our children are also not, in any respect, ‘followers’. So when the family tries to walk anywhere, we have many different opinions about where to go and the best route, which means everyone tends to disperse in different directions.
As you can imagine, raising strong personalities was fun, but challenging. Whenever I took them out, I would have back-up plans, just in case. Such as, “If you get on a train before me and the doors shut before I’m on it, get off at the very next station and wait for me.” Or, “If you realise you have lost me, just stand still and shout; and only ask for help from a woman with children.” (I figured that a woman who had children of her own would realise how awful they generally are, and would never want to steal someone else’s!) However, one son informed me that these strategies no longer work, and now he’s a very tall man, if he approached a woman with children and told her he was lost, she would probably have him arrested.
It was a lovely evening, and stress free, which such evenings have not always been. I remember the year when there had to be a line drawn across the table, so one son’s feet did not extend into my daughter’s foot-territory. And the year when one teenager arrived in the car ready to drive to the station moments before our train was due, wearing a shirt and jeans. Just a shirt – no jumper, no coat. And it was snowing. But apparently teenaged boys do not feel the cold or ever get ill, so it would have been unreasonable of me to comment.
But not this year. This year, they all arrived, from their various places of residence, and we ate dinner together and chatted. A special time. So, if your children are younger, and perhaps not always easy, hold that image in mind. In time, they will be the people who you most want to be with. They will be the provider of your most special memories, the accompaniment to precious moments, and the people who lighten your heart. If they manage to arrive in the right city on time….
Thank you for reading.
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