Very Nice Chap (hereafter VNC), being young and unmarried, is going home for Christmas to be with his parents. At least my decree absolute will do a bit of good there, removing some of my status as Female Predator. Because, let's face it, on the list of parental nightmares, older married women with children come somewhere around drunken car crashes and bit parts in Trainspotting. At least as a divorcee I will no longer be forcing their little lad into adultery. In an attempt to convince VNC's parents that I wasn't biting him into pieces to be consumed at my leisure we went to visit at the weekend. VNC was confident that meeting me would allay their fears. I was confident that meeting me would give them a nervous breakdown. I'm no good at not swearing or laying off tasteless jokes about the Royal Family for two hours let alone two days.
By the time the long drive Up North was done I was almost speechless with nerves. "I'm 39 years old," I squeaked to myself inside, "I'm an adult." But my identity as an adult seemed to have dropped out of the car going over the Humber Bridge. I was 12 years old and up before the headmistress for being very naughty indeed.
We arrived. Parked. Stepped out into the frosty street. I had expected something dour, grey and post-industrial. A place where even the architecture would label me as a bohemian Southerner with the moral fibre of a slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata). What I found was that I had entered a Janet Arlberg world where every red brick in every house had its place and was glowing with friendliness. The floodlit Minster peeping over the rooftops, the yellow light in the windows and the clipped icy trees in the front gardens, all said this is a place where everything is as it should be. This is a place where all families stay together, where the milk is delivered in time for breakfast and there is always cake for tea. This was the place that had made VNC into a VNC. Where magical childhood stuff happened all the time without anyone having to flash a Mastercard, or plan it for three months in advance.
VNC walked up the path in the middle of the front garden, to a door in the middle of the house. He walked in without key or knocking, rightly certain of the welcome we'd get: warm. Open. Not the armed combat you have waiting to offer Parental Nightmare number 23. And then I was in danger of weeping my way across the threshold. This is what I had wanted for my kids dammit. This feeling of safety and rightness. This is what I'd have liked myself, a parental front door still open in adulthood to go through without question. A place where you could go and make yourself toast and Marmite at bedtime but still be told off about putting your feet on the furniture.
So anyway, I stopped being nervous and began to enjoy a weekend off being an adult. A weekend staying with somebody else's Mummy and Daddy who are just like your own Mummy and Daddy only nicer (or in my case alive). I ate roast and gravy, played whist, spent ages in the bath and was flooded with the stories of another family: the time VNC grew a giant pumpkin, the time his sister nearly fell down Snowden, the time his Mum had hysterics burying a rat and his dad climbed on the roof of Beverly Races. I even enjoyed sleeping alone in the spare room while VNC was tucked up in his old bed next door. Saying good night with smouldering repressed passion at the bedroom door is something I haven't experienced since I was 17. As a fuel for the first months of a new relationship I'd rate it along with the stuff they use to get rockets into orbit. Tucked up under my rose petal quilt and dressed in the only nightie I could find at home which approaches virginal, I let the long-term homely rightness of the house sink into me. And prayed to the God of rose petal quilts and trellis wallpaper that second time around I could build a little of this world for myself.
Stevie MorganReuse content