If families were meant to stay together nobody would grow up and move on with their lives. It’s the anti-climax in every expats summer, it causes rifts among siblings, tension among grandparents and stress for everyone, it’s the big summer get-together at home. Of course from afar and on Skype the idea of spending a week with all your siblings and their partners, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, kids, dogs and hang up’s sounds great, but the reality is rather different. When thousands of miles away from siblings, parents, extended family, stress, it’s easy to forget just how stressful the big get together really is.
90% of emigrants come home each summer, particularly the women, who make the trip home just so as they can pick up a few bits in Penneys and make sure that the kids don’t lose touch with nanny and granddad. Remember that they all need a place to stay, as their former residence is either repossessed or rented, the budget does include a summer house, standards do not entertain a mobile home so guess when they all go……home. Home to Nanny and Granddad, who just turned your old bedroom into a gym. But it’s a four bed so there’s no problem, as long as they have an electric shower, Wi-Fi, parking and regular hot meals, it’ll do for the summer holiday. Trouble is all your siblings think the same and you all arrive at once.
The holiday starts out as an ideal image, of course you imagine that Nanny and Granddad are only too happy to offer up their house to their adorable grandchildren and only marginally unappreciative kids. Your children, (the grandchildren) are playing on the lawn, happy to meet their cousins, the mammies and daddies (us, the children) are chatting happily comparing children, pointing out the similarity in noses, knees and niceties. Maya has Eimear’s toes and Ciaran has David’s ears, the chat will continue. Mammy (Nanny) is happy cooking in the kitchen, she will hum Amazing Grace as she peels the potatoes for dinner, perfect, everyone is happy, thats the mirage.
The reality strays somewhat from that image. Those that live at home are slightly resentful of those that sauntered in the door from abroad and are now calling the shots. Those that came in the door from abroad can’t help but notice the amount of free babysitting not to mention other benefits that those-at-home seem to take for granted. Everyone is angry at the sister in the UK who only comes home three times a year and doesn’t pull her weight even then. She’s angry that those in the Far East seem to get full emigrant status and nobody seems to appreciate that life in Somerset is just as tough as Jakarta, in other ways. The cousins that you pictured playing hopscotch together are constantly arguing over the iPAD, Nanny’s alopecia is back due to stress and Granddad is praying for an end.
It doesn’t help that you’re now sharing your teenage bedroom complete with Madonna posters with your three children. Like a virgin, if only. It also doesn’t help that you’ve begun waking up in the middle of the night fretting over the possibility of having left the immersion on, the worst faux pas imaginable to Irish parents. Neither does it help that your teenage children are unable to place the shower curtain inside the bath when having a shower, thus flooding the bathroom, thus making Nanny balder by the second, thus making the Eu. 375 a week in the holiday home down the road suddenly seem reasonable.
Uncle Albert is going out with a distant cousin, your sister is surreptitiously quaffing wine in her bedroom by night and your new sister-in-law is a vegan in a house that has never before had to accommodate a courgette.
At the end, you pack with the gusto of Navy Seal and vow to never feel so hemmed in again and you drive away excited at the thoughts of having your own space, another mirage. It’s not twenty minutes later when the memory of gross inconvenience and overwhelming claustrophobia fade and you start to make plans to do it all again next year