I am pagan. Coming up to the Winter Solstice, spirit is pulling me into the longest night where I can dream, slow down, tuck-up, hibernate.
Except I can’t. I’m so busy life is flashing past and the reason for that is Christmas. My birth family celebrates Christmas. I was brought up with Christmas and while there’s no religious association for me there are traditions I treasure. Traditions I want to access my seven year old into. Presents and stockings and special food, sparkling lights and thinking of others. And above all of those things is family.
I am blessed with a birth family that accepts my sexuality and my butch gender. They embraced our wedding and our baby’s naming. I also have a family of siblings, aun/cles and cousins of choice. Friends who I stick by and come back to through good times and bad. They are family. Queer people are good at making family where we find it.
So this week, this crazy, hectic last week of school, working on a big project week, we were out celebrating with family when we should have been home sleeping.
My partner, also known as Her Royal Ladymadam. our child, for the purposes of this blog, Himself Junior, and myself met with HJ’s chosen aunt, Rita Foi. We met in busy Oxford Street to see the lights and Selfridges window display. The world was there buffeting us on the streaky pavement. The world except for Rita. Rita is always late. We expect it. Rita’s never going to change. And we love her. Years of conversations and life events flow between us. We queued for 30 minutes to get a table. Himself Junior was practically asleep by the time his cod goujons arrived but we made that precious time.
Last night we met my dad, Himself Senior, again in town, again for a meal. This time we booked. We had to book 5pm, the time we’d agreed to meet. I texted and called him all day without reply. I wasn’t especially worried. Himself Senior has just started dialysis. When he’s hooked up he can’t answer his phone. Yesterday was a dialysis day.
By 16:55 standing in the British Library not seeing Himself Senior I started to worry. He’s new to dialysis. He’s been in hospital twice this year. He’s tripped and fallen a couple of times. He lives on his own in Bedfordshire and he’s 89. I reasoned he’d forgotten his phone. I tried to quell the image of him lying semi-conscious or worse on a cold kitchen floor.
By 17:30 I had left messages for my sister and was unsuccessfully calling the dialysis unit in Bedford. The phrase: “I’m trying to locate my father” was poised on my lips. And then I saw him. I have never been more relieved to see the back of a familiar overcoat.
He was tired, woozy from the dialysis. Her Royal Ladymadam sat him down while I tried to stop Himself Junior abseiling down a long flight of stairs. We had tea. We silently mourned the lovely restaurant booking but mostly thanked the Goddess. We then rang around restaurants being told we could get a table at 9pm.
We battled a sudden and terrible storm across the St Pancras Hotel forecourt to throw ourselves at the mercy of Carluccios. Her Royal Ladymadam was magnificent. “I have an 89 year old and a 7 year old in my party,” she said with a charming smile and a look of expectance.
We were bumped up from an outside table so chilly they had rugs draped over the chairs to the coveted inside. Where it was all steamed up windows and red wine and spaghetti meatballs.
I wanted Himself Senior to stay over but he insisted on going home. Family is respecting my father’s decisions. Family is watching Himself Senior disappear down the escalator, still unsteady on his feet.
To me Family means tolerance and respect. It’s support and patience and unconditional love. Unconditional love hurts the least and lasts the longest. Family is letting be and sometimes letting go.
I shall be having the quietest Winter Solstice possible. Before embracing a blessed and busy Christmas.
I wish for you the holiday season you wish for yourself. May it be all you hope for.