We are back from our epic voyage across three countries and I am working my way through laundry and starting to piece our post-wedding lives together. It’s funny, for so long whilst we were hurtling towards this enormously important family event, every aspect of our ordinary decisions became divided into either urgent and therefore necessary and allowable or not urgent or necessary, and therefore able to be postponed until after the wedding. So now here we are on the other side, and alongside the unpacking and the cleaning are all these random elements lying around, waiting for our attention.
And I can’t stop going over and over those days in Marbella: I can’t help thinking how different it all could have been if at any point in that time one of my family had just taken a step towards us, or shown some sign of friendliness or kindness.
Instead of feeling so insulted by that first encounter, when we were made to feel so unwelcome at their table, if we could have sat down together as a family and at least said hello to each other, after all these years of silence, perhaps I could have held my emotions in better check when I was herded out of the reception area the next day.
Perhaps if the table seating plan had put me next to my brother instead of sat next to strangers, I could have taken a step towards repairing the years of distance between us. Perhaps I would have seen, as Jude saw but couldn’t tell me at the time, that my sister-in-law was feeling just as out of place as I was and that my sense of her judging me was perhaps completely misplaced.
Despite all of their flaws, they aren’t malevolent people: as Jude explained to me as we sat by our fire in the garden last night, me still hashing through my hurt feelings and disappointment: he sees them as slightly lost children who just don’t know how to behave in these situations. Any other mother, for example, would have pushed her children together rather than nervously chat about books at me until I walked away, seething: hungry, hot and hurt.
After all, I am the embodiment of that cliché of a square peg in a round hole: passionate and emotional, I cannot hide my feelings and everything is always clearly on display. I wear my heart on my sleeve and whilst it often gives me a ticket into strangers hearts, more often it is a trap that I fall into and cannot get out of: it fuels the spite of those who rather enjoy watching others failing, my sister’s mother-in-law for example, made a rather nasty remark behind my back as I left the table in anger at her friend’s rudeness.
Had I been offered the chance to relax for a minute, to have been given the chance to see past their social ineptitude, I could have put my feelings aside and done what I alone in my family can do so well: made everyone laugh, tickled my children to help break the ice, spoken to them all, brought some of my silliness and happiness into their idea of what I am and who we are: perhaps we could even have got to know each other a little.
Instead it’s the same old story: Chloe got upset, walked away and the chances are that we may never speak to anyone in the family ever again. It’s already been 5 years of silence after all.
So I’m cross with myself for not being able to control my emotions. I felt so miserable after having worked so hard to prepare myself and my girls for this event and when it came to it, was unable to hide my disappointment with them all. Had I been a different person, a less emotional, less passionate human, I could have swallowed the pain and smiled through it all. But I simply do not have that ability: it is a fakery I am incapable of producing. No matter how useful it would have been, in this as in so many other potentially disastrous events in my life which have generally always led me falling down the same hole, I just cannot lie: my skin speaks even when my mouth cannot.
I wanted so much for my girls to be welcomed and made a fuss of: for those brief days with their extended, unseen and silent family to be remembered by them as joyful, carefree sunshine times, for them to dance in a different light, for them to held in the embrace of a bigger circle than that with which they are held by Jude and me, by ourselves with all our ups and downs, all of our stresses and constraints big and small.
For those 10 days, we were in a beautiful bubble of happiness, driving around like any other family on holiday in a modern, reliable and comfortable car, tired and a little bored at being in said car at times, but at the same time so thrillingly free. We roamed through all those countries, exploring and experiencing so much that we normally never see. I spoilt the girls and bought them all kinds of plastic crap and sweets that I found along the way: stuff that I normally avoid because of it’s impact on the planet, and each time I knew that I was doing it to make up for what they lacked in gifts and affection from my family.
I am tired. Emotionally wrung out. Cross with them, frustrated by the mistakes and missed opportunities on both sides. This all could have been, should have been, so very different. With someone other than me to guide us, to pull us all together, perhaps we could have all made some progress and found some way to be a family. My sister and her husband were wrapped up in their friends and Tom’s more gregarious family and were not able to do it. My brother is incapable of stepping out of his shy and socially awkward self. My parents were too self conscious and unwilling or unable to speak to me. And I should have seen all of that and taken on the task of social interaction, for the sake of all of us. Instead I sulked. I felt unwelcome and messy: out of sorts, out of place: I wanted to disappear completely and indeed, we left as soon as we politely could, before I unravelled any more. If I hadn’t been me, I could have been the glue that held it all together: pulled everyone into my light which has been so brightly lit since I’ve been away from them all this time. If.