Tomorrow is my nana’s 80th birthday. We celebrated today by having everyone in the family, scattered all around the country, turn up at her house unannounced. There were fifteen of us in total, I think. It is literally the only time all fifteen of us have been in the same place at once, since one of those people is a new person, at just eight weeks old.
We never were that good at meeting up as a whole family. Over the past few years, certain things have happened which have forced us to do so. When my aunt died last year, we all agreed to make sure we saw each other more, and today was the first such occasion.
Family days get a bad rep, but I always really enjoy them. We’re a nice, wide spread of people. Even within the “cousins” sector, our ages range from 9 to 28. Add to that aunts and uncles and parents and cousin’s-little-babies – as well as my nan, of course – and there’s a really excellent mix there. We’re based in Leeds and Leicester, London and Wolverhampton. We’re hotel managers, students, teachers, illustrators, support workers, heads-of-bloody-mental-health-in-half-of-bloody-London and, um, games journalists.
There’s something really special about everyone getting together for one person. In recent years we’ve done so at my cousin’s wedding, then – unhappily – at my aunt’s funeral. Jan was missed today. No one really mentioned it, but there was definitely a feeling there. Except the funeral, it’s the first major family occasion since her death. Her husband, my uncle Steve, was there. He’s been redecorating his kitchen. He’s thinking of taking early retirement. Slowly, he’s rebuilding his life.
Shortly before Jan died, I became an uncle. I met Charlie for the first time just days before the bad news, knowing it could arrive at any moment. Just before Christmas, Nell was born – Jan and Steve’s second grandchild. There’s some solace there. The “circle of life” thing might be the sort of thing that usually makes me cringe, but it’s become such a cliché because it’s true. People die, and people are born, and however sad the death of a loved one might be, the birth of a new one is wonderful and magical. Nell is an adorable little baby. There’s something fascinating about new little people, multiplied tenfold when they’re a part of your own family. I couldn’t take my eyes off her all day.