Last weekend we had one of those perfect experiences. You know, when you think, OK well this is happening, it could be OK, but it also could go horribly wrong and then it’s better than you ever hoped? One of those.
Ben’s maternal grandparents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary last week (that’s 60 years people!) and wanted to mark the occasion by bringing their relatively small, but rather geographically scattered family together. It was a really lovely idea and something we haven’t done in ages! The family were all booked in to a small boutique country hotel near Kingsbridge, Devon and invitations sent. However, this really wasn’t the kind of establishment that leant itself to toddlers, so it was agreed both Oscar and his cousins Lucas (3) and Anya (16 months) would stay elsewhere. My sister in law easily found an extended family member to sit for her in their home in Plymouth. However all our family are also in Devon, not Surrey where we live. Finding someone who Oscar felt comfortable with and who had the space was not going to be easy.
This in itself could have derailed our weekend from the off. Oscar doesn’t often stay the night with other people, mostly because our family all live hundreds of miles away. And the last person he successfully stayed with was joining us at the hotel. He doesn’t really know his extended family well enough, or they don’t have the space. So it was with some trepidation we asked our good friend Michelle whether she would have him. As he’d recently spent a few days with Michelle and her 4 year old daughter Holly when they visited a couple of weeks ago, we figured she would be fresh enough in his mind to be familiar. Add that to the fact that I just knew that Michelle would be bloody marvellous with him, I felt really confident leaving him with her. Her daughter Holly was so excited Oscar was coming for a ‘sleepover’ it was all Michelle could do to convince her not to sleep on the floor next to his bed!
So on Saturday we headed off to Plymouth, with the boy in the back thoroughly enamoured of the iPad in its new holder attached the to the headrest. We’d downloaded a few films and some Thomas the Tank Engine and by golly it was the most peaceful four hour journey we’ve ever had. He’s not a bad traveller all told, but this is my little ball of energy we’re talking about and four hours is a lot to ask of him. Despite setting off at 8.30am, nowhere near his nap time, he did brilliantly and even snoozed for the last hour of the journey waking up 10 minutes from our destination. When we arrived he was happy and calm and easily distracted enough by the gazillions of new toys not to bother about us leaving. We ran to the car like escaping convicts!
The hotel we stayed in was the Buckland Tout Saints and we arrived with plenty of time to join the family in the bar. I was unwinding with a Pinot by 3pm and it felt fantastic. Everyone was in fine sprits (literally) and the fun began in earnest. It was just so nice to get to chat. I’ve known Ben’s sister longer than I’ve known Ben, but as Ben and I have been together 17 years this year, it always feels like catching up with old friends when the family get together. We talked about the children and our lives and this and that. My brother in law was most impressed by their bathroom, which was on a mezzanine floor in their room. I think we were all taken to see it at some point or another!
Getting ready in peace was amazing. We put some tunes on the iPad and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of putting my make up on without feeling like a fugitive hiding from someone (also known as the boy!) I got to wear my gorgeous new dress and as promised here is the evidence. It was so beautiful and comfortable and felt both smart and fun. It wowed the family just as I hoped it would. Nice one Pepperberry!
Dinner was just how a big family meal should be. Full of chat, laughs, debate and fun. Who knew Aunty Gillian’s inability to get her arm out of shot would cause such hilarity? But then that’s what it’s all about. Laughing at the silly memories that mean nothing to anyone else.
After dinner we proceeded to take over the bar (again) and partied until the small hours. Not sure how, but I seemed to drink myself sober. I even took my make up off when I went to bed and woke with no hangover at all! Bonus!
We picked up Oscar the next day, to hear that apart from not wanting to brush his teeth, he’d been fine with Michelle and actually put himself into bed and had fallen asleep immediately. What a star! He had taken every toy in the house out though, which I did feel a bit bad for, so we ensured Michelle was rightly compensated with wine, chocolates and flowers. We can’t explain how much knowning he was OK allowed us to have the best night. So once again THANK YOU MICHELLE!
From Michelle’s we took Oscar over to his Great Grandparents house. Again it’s not somewhere he’s been in a very long time and we were concerned how he’d cope being in a strange environment with a group of adults he doesn’t known all that well. We shouldn’t have worried. He was absolutely fine, heading straight for the toys in the conservatory and playing with his Great Granddad (and his namesake. Oscar’s middle name is Frederick). And when Lucas arrived with his sister Anya, well that was that. Oscar’s not always the most receptive to other children, but for his cousin Lucas he makes an exception. Despite only seeing Lucas handful of times in his life and certainly not for the last nine months, they have some kind of connection I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand. Every time they see each other they are like the best of friends and this time was no different. Within half an hour they were chasing each other round the house, laughing like drains and even holding hands, something I never see Oscar do with his chums! I don’t know, maybe they look at each other and see something familiar (or familial!) in each other. Either way it was beautiful to see and we cant wait until Lucas is old enough to come and stay with us!
We tried desperately hard to get a picture with all the children in one shot, but you know kids. They are wont to move. A lot! This was the best I did!
And I particularly like this one of my niece Anya. She’s going to be tall like her Grandma I think!
We finished the lunch off with a celebratory cake, made by Ben’s mum. As soon as Oscar saw it he sat up to the table and started singing what I believe was his attempt at Happy Birthday! Bless!
We left, sad to be going, but so pleased that we’d been privileged enough to celebrate such an amazing milestone with such an awesome couple. A couple who raised two children, supported two grandchildren and care for three Great Grandchildren. A couple who have so many interests and hobbies and friends and ‘joie de vivre’. A couple whose attitude inspire the whole family, every day.
So here’s to a great weekend, to a great family and to a great 60 years.
Here’s to Fred and Peggy