Slightly bereft at having to chuck my much-used colour coded planning chart in the bin, I wave goodbye to my family. Left alone with my girls and a vacant diary, I feel the emptiness only a great time of love and laughter can leave in its wake. Every year, my mum and dad, my brother’s family, and me and mine all converge from our various corners of UK, Scotland and Ireland for a mass gathering of Kirk capers and quality extended family time. Of course, they’re not extended family to me, they are an extension of me, my family before I had a family.
This year they all came to me to be captivated by our new house and capitulated to my organisational orgy of planned activities (red), sightseeing (blue), culinary caterings (green), sleeping arrangements (purple) and picnic sandwich fillings (pink).
It was fabulous. For a week we all lived as maybe society originally intended – all together, sharing time and tasks. My girls loved showing their grandparents their new toys and dance moves, and I loved showing my parents our new furniture and surroundings. We picnicked, we walked, we beached, we parked, we playgrounded, we laughed, we talked and we ate. And then my brother arrived with his troupe and our family enlarged like a heart heaving with happiness. For three days, five kiddie cousins learned about each other. Friends enough not to be strangers, but strange enough to be exciting friends, they ran around the older generations like buzzing bees on a spring day. We all smiled at their energy, their imaginations, their spirit; new friends in our old family. And maybe I smiled most of all. I mentally added three more bullets to my children’s ammo belt of life. To watch my two girls absorbed in such intensity, besotted with six year old Ellie (who as an older girl is an object of pure adoration), while playfully joking with Tom and Alex, their twin boy cousins, for three days they were happily lost to me as they familiarised themselves with their family, courted their cousins, and built a bigger platform for their step off into life.
I smiled because I always visualise a belt around their waists you see, an invisible belt of ammunition for building their confidence, their happiness and for self-defence as they battle their way through life’s little wars and woes. Their dad and I are the lazer guided missiles, keen and catastrophic in our ability to defend and protect, the foundation blocks on the platform they will leap from in time. Their grandparents, uncles and aunts are the hand grenades to be lobbed to devastating effect, their love providing building blocks for the girls on their first steps up in life. Their godparents, cousins and friends are the bullets, quick fired and sure, all stepping stones so they can reach as high as they can. The more ammo they have – the people who love them, and care about them, people to teach them and guide them, and play with them, the better armed they are for life.
So I smiled because the firepower of family is fierce. And in the next day or so, our family extends further still, as a new cousin is born. Another bullet on my girls’ ammo belts. Another person to love them and be loved.