19th Wedding Anniversary

This is how it started. On that day nineteen years ago I jumped out of bed frantic talking, talking, talking all the way out of the house and along the track to the feed store. “I’m late already. I’m already late. I don’t believe this. What happened to early? It’s already after six and I’m already late. Where’s the sun? Why’s it still so dark? Oh, shit look at the sky, look at the bloody sky. And it’s really raining. It’s raining on our wedding day.

And I’m taking too long doing this, why are all the feed bins empty now, why didn’t I think of this yesterday when they were already nearly empty. And why is it raining so very hard?”

Scuttling along in too-big clogs, falling off their wooden edges unbalanced on the uneven ground and carrying the manger I kept up a persistent muttery mumble, trying to calm matters down and to ignore the rain: “It’s fine, it’s not that late, I can still get showered and have my hair in curlers in plenty of time for my hair to dry by eleven” and scurrying up to the gate she hooked the manger onto it, and gave the Grey Horse a sudden and unexpected pat. Much alarm and headshaking, and a suspicion that she really was quite as mad as he had always believed, the Grey Horse stood back from his breakfast. I sighed, “oh don’t be so silly” before reaching out once again but this time much more slowly, to gently pat the Grey Horse his good morning. Kissing his chaff dusted nose I said: “enjoy your breakfast”.

Back indoors the peace and calm one might expect so early on a Saturday morning was completely absent. Instead there were a dozen or so Swedish relations, long lost friends and teenagers, munching their various ways noisily through a host of breakfast stuff: teas, juices, coffee and the rest. The scene of formless mess only added to the surreal and thunderstruck sense of the day. I couldn’t imagine how the day had suddenly turned into chaos so very soon. Tea at least was already made, so grabbing a mug I hurried upstairs to the shower, barely noticed.

At least the shower was hot. The battle for the hairdryer was about to commence between Hannah and Matilda, both of whom had already showered while I was getting drenched in the rain. When I got out of the shower, only mildly less hysterical, the plan had been to put my hair in curlers and to set the hairdryer on them. I had had in mind a cascade of blondish reddish curls. “We’re nearly finishing Mummy. We won’t be long. Your hair dries quicker than ours”. Gorgeous girls 13 and 14 years old, bubbling over with youth, beauty and innocence still, and in a moment so precious still ours, still our lovely little girls.

So OK. OK. I gave give up on the idea of leisurely drying and cascading glory and concentrated on the dressing bit of the morning. Suddenly everything, even the simplest part of getting ready seemed too complicated to manage. No room. No space, just a blind, fearful panic, wondering where Paul was and whether it was all as mad for him, tangled up with the business of breakfast and all those visiting Swedes. Unlikely somehow and I imagined him serene and slightly excited on the outside, cool, calm and in control and probably quite oblivious to the raging skies beyond the kitchen windows.

Outside the weather was worsening with each passing moment. Lights on indoors in July in the morning? Whatever was happening. The thunder rolled, the girls kept squeaking and fidgeting and I sat down in the corner still in my dressing gown and wondered what to do next. Fortunately someone else was there to egg me gently on to the day’s next steps. I was not alone and true to the traditions of brides and maids of honour, Joanne serene, calm and moving slowly into the room gave me a sudden and loving hug. “It’s the day! Today’s the day. Are you alright? Have you had anything to eat? There’s still toast and tea. Paul’s taking care of the rabble downstairs. All you’ve got to do is have your tea and relax and get dressed. Isn’t it fantastic!” I held her hand tightly and said in  a tiny voice: “Why’s it raining? What’s with the thunder? What’s happening?” And Joanne laughing “all of nature’s getting up and getting ready, so come on, what are you doing?” And with a brusque and bossy “Get your mother another cup of tea and a biscuit”, Joanne pushed the morning machine into gear, sat me down and started getting to work on my hair.

It’s been 19 years and they’re all hovering around my head still. The joys, the less-than joys, the amazing experience of seeing our children grow into such wonderful people. Thank you to everyone who made that day so memorable and thank you to Paul, Hannah, Morgan and Matilda for giving me such a fabulous, joyful and loving family.


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