SO2, Episode 2: Meet the Parents
'Mum and Dad thought it would be nice if you and the girls came for Easter Sunday lunch.'
'My brother, his wife and the kids will be there, too.'
Oh, double crap.
'Oh and Auntie Grace and Uncle Etienne.'
Time to meet the family.
I am not a novice at meeting in-laws and managing family dealings. My ex-mother-in-law left a lasting impression when she held me up against a wall with a knife. I've been wary of bread knives ever since.
I know Ross's folks are unlikely to be into attacking their guests, especially the chosen partner of their beloved son. But I have a few other reasons to be nervy. Namely, I am unusual - quirky in a good light. I dragged my kids 500 miles to a freezing pit of a house, I homeschooled them and I make my living creating illusions. I have landed in their son's life with a bang after having left it with a whimper some years ago.
Also, I need a hair overhaul. I'm naturally a pale blond colour but decided post-divorce to go full pillar box red. A few years on it's the sort of orange associated with a vile Scottish fizzy drink. The cut is 'hacked with a scythe' - I would like to impress my lover's parents with a little more than harassed single mother chic.
Wrangling the girls into publicly acceptable clothing is the initial challenge. Trust me dressing a child who is part wolf - complete with teeth is nigh on impossible. As for balletic-ironman, well the less said the better. Eventually, I achieve the vague impression that these are two girls who don't live in a fancy dress box. I am another proposition unable to unearth that hidden sophistication I fall back on unseasonal black.
'Mummmm, why do I have to wear pastels?!' Lily mimics being sick.
'It's spring, darling, sunshine, flowers...'
'YUCK! I hate it....will there be chocolate?' Ever the hopeful when it comes to sweet treats. She can eat her way through an entire pudding menu and still want more sugar. The violent whiskey-drunk-fall-out is a special hell where she turns into a diminutive version of the Hulk. I try to avoid this by basically banning sweets that lead to people thinking I am the cruellest parent.
'It's not fair! You get to wear black! Can I take my bow? I might need a sword. Do they have a wolf den?'
'Will there be bunnies?' Daisy loves all cute and living things. 'And daisies? And egg hunt? And children to play with? And strawberries?'
Oh, my life! 'I'm sure there will be all the Easter stuff. Can we leave NOW please!'
All is running smoothly, we are dressed, have gifts, are on time, not a nervous wreck...until.
'DOLLYYYYYYYYYY!' The banshee cry of a child who has lost, forgotten, swallowed or broken their toy is terrifying to the uninitiated. Worse when you are driving on a busy highway.
'Daisy! What's wrong?' I reach to the back of the car to calm her before Ross swerves off the road in horror at the assault on his eardrums.
Daisy points to the footwell where a doll's head is rolling, in her hand is the headless body. In common with many 6-year-olds, she is inexplicably attached to a small plastic toy, on whom she lavishes more love than her living family. Somehow this item has been decapitated. I instantly look to Lily.
Lily grins and holds up a penknife. 'It's sharp, Mum'
Yes, indeed it is. Cue more sobbing from Daisy. Oh, my life!!
We arrive at Ross's folks, a little frazzled but pacified. Promises of new dolls, death to children who wield knives and bribery if they behave for two bloody hours!
Greeted by Valerie and Henry we mass into the ample living room where an Easter gathering is in full swing. Lily responds to introductions by howling and heads to the garden to find a den. Daisy takes that as a cue to burst into tears and share the demise of her precious dolly. Food, treats and cuddles are distributed. Ross's niece takes Daisy to the playroom. I hear Lily howling in the garden, much to everyone's amusement.
Ross's brother, James and I were in the same year at school. Whilst we didn't know each other then, he takes me under his wing and navigates me through the family intros. So far, I am safe from bread knives - in fact, Valerie and I have a lot to chat about and Henry keeps me fuelled on wine.
The kids are engaged in a brilliant Easter egg hunt that leads to raucous laughter and for a moment Daisy's trauma is forgotten. Henry has the best-stocked garage outside of a DIY store. He takes Daisy's dolly and applies engineering know-how to reattaching the head.
'It's a nice clean cut.' He observes. Lily would have done well in the French Revolution.
To say that Daisy was ecstatic at the return of her dolly is an understatement. With a large chocolate egg in one hand and the love of her life in the other equilibrium is restored.
It transpires that Ross’s family are warm and welcoming and the two hours planned turn into several. The children are delighted with their new friends and get ridiculously spoilt. We pile into the car to head home with bags of sweets, flowers from Valerie’s beautiful garden and a sense of a very good Easter party.
There are many things to love about Ross but this welcome from his family feels so important. We feel like a proper couple. Tucking the kids into bed they are sleepy, loved and have had a wonderful day. Daisy cuddles her dolly and Lily says she doesn’t mind wearing a pastel dress - some days.
When I come downstairs Ross is just hanging up a call.
'Dad says he hopes the dolly will hold and he is delighted to meet his two new grandchildren.'
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