Family past, family present

Published July 23, 2015 by Jackie

My weekend seemed to be mostly family related, family past and family present, and I guess family future too!

On Friday, my friend and I went down to the preview evening of another friend’s exhibition. What does this have to do with family? Well, the exhibition is in the village that was my family home for over 30 years, the village my mother and both of her sisters retired back to in the late 1970s. A lovely wee seaside village called Alnmouth in Northumberland. It’s such a beautiful little village, the river curls around the village, and opens out into the sea, which isolates the village on a little promontary. You can see it from the main Edinburgh to London railway line, a mix of large Victorian houses and tiny fishermen’s cottages, and everything in between, including the 1960s apartment complex my mother lived in. Several pubs & hotels, and a 9-hole golf course between the village and the beach.

I’ve not been back since we sold my mum’s flat in early 2008, a year after she died. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would feel as I came down the hill from the station, and over the bridge that is the gateway into the village. A huge lump in my throat, and it was as if Alnmouth had pulled out all the stops to make this a memorable evening. The village has clearly prospered in those years, everywhere was sparkling in the beautiful evening sunshine. A breeze was rustling through the trees, and as we walked up to the gallery, wood-pigeons were coo-ing. Although I didn’t really live there myself, I visited a lot over the years, and I think I understand why my mother and her sisters were so keen to get back to the village where they’d spent most of their childhood.

I’d also arranged to meet one of Mum’s neighbours, who was also a lovely friend to her. They played Scrabble together every week on a Thursday, and a second time if I came down for the weekend. She was also the person who drove us family members up and down to the station ~ just a mile or so, but a long walk that takes just 3 minutes in a car. It was so good to see her at the preview event, we sat out in the yard chatting away, exchanging family news from both sides, for a good half-hour! Oh and of course, showing photographs of the family that were on my phone.

I was delighted to be back, because although I pass regularly, and often think of visiting, I’d just not got round to it. My last few visits, while we still had the flat to stay in, had become increasingly difficult, as each time, my mum’s friends would stop me for a chat and tell me how much they missed her, which of course, I did too! It was time to move on, but now the grief is past, and I’ve also broken the ice with this flying visit, I shall be delighted to drop by again, after all, it’s only an hour away by train!

Saturday saw me with ‘family present’, and meeting the next generation, my wee great-niece who lives in Aberdeen. Her father, my eldest nephew, now 40, and her mum have had an acrimonious separation, and it’s only as she has got a little older that his daughter is now allowed to stay every other weekend. She’s a bright wee button, and my nephew has moved out of his city-centre flat into a modern little terraced house, up a quiet cul-de-sac, with a gated back garden. Perfect for a little girl to run around in…. non-stop!

Her granny comes to visit overnight, and this time there was a house full of family, as my second nephew and his girlfriend drove me up for this visit. Girlfriend had met granny, but not the little girl. She also had to contend with their wee dog, who thinks that little kids are perfect to play with, as he can stand on his back legs to lick their faces! M wasn’t too keen on this, so we were teaching her how to say No! and Get Down! Poor little thing was also covered in itchy (but no longer infectious) chickenpox scabs… teeny tiny ones but lots of them.

Next day, when all was quiet, she was asking where everyone had gone? Seems she had a lovely weekend and didn’t really want to go back home to mum and big brother… I hope the parents keep it civilised between them, for her sake, it’s better to say nothing than to put each other down. But hey, not my business… I’m just here to be her auntie, and rather than a great auntie, I’d prefer it if I could be a fabulous one! I shall be back! I have to, she asked for a green rabbit to go with her striped Elijah.

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