The golden thread that united
Friday, 12 October 2012
This weekend, my Pa, the Northern Socialist, and my Ma will celebrate 50 years of marriage. I say 'celebrate' because we are making them do something to recognise such an achievement. We suggested theatre trips and jaunts to London, Michelin restaurants and a big party. Like small children faced with unpleasant vegetables, they demurred, feigned deafness, twisted napkins and asked to be excused.
We compromised eventually; they would book somewhere local for a small family lunch and we would promise on our honour not to get them any presents or make a fuss. Then they're going to slither quietly off back to Barbados and gather their thoughts with a dusting of silver sand and a frosting of Planters' Punch.
It's funny, the gift thing in our family - we all love giving them but aren't terribly gracious about being recipients. I will ponder the wherefores another time. What we have done, to our enormous glee, is secretly contact every single person with an email address, phone or Facebook that was at the wedding, met them later, was taught by either of them, shared sporting, literary or musical passions or was just sucked laughing into their orbit.
We told these old friends that the olds were being royal pains in the arse and refusing gifts, so we wanted to make them one instead. A book recording all the gifts they have passed on to their friends, grandchildren, neighbours, colleagues. A book that details the gifts that they have and how they have used them over the past 50 years. So we asked them to write their thoughts and maybe look out old photos instead of sending stuff.
It has been an eye-opening fortnight collating the bugger. Seeing one's parents through an entirely new prism has been extraordinary. Some of the tales and people were well-known, faded and comforting, old blankets we were happy to see. Some stories made us cry a little bit - they seem to have committed acts of extreme kindness and secrecy. Many just made us wonder how any of us were still here and functioning.
But the golden thread that shines through every one is the gift of their hospitality and laughter; my mother conjuring fabulous suppers on stoves in half-demolished kitchens, on barbecues on windy moors, in deserts. She seems to have mended marriages and hearts along with split trousers and unravelled socks. My father's socialist and sporting philosophies are still quoted in Canada, Berkshire, Barbados and Antwerp. There are grown men out there who are still terrified of him on a football pitch, in a boxing ring, guarding his teenage daughters. Every single person mentioned how much he had made them laugh.
We're going to take turns reading them aloud over lunch tomorrow. We're giving the six bots the really soppy ones. That'll teach them.