Our holiday is over and we are back in the whirl, and the occasional birdsong floating through the sunny afternoon quiet, of our city home. Spider-boy is back at nursery and Thathusband is back at work.
So follows the post-mortems. And some questions. Are family holidays always strained? Do we remember them as more fun because of all those sun soaked photos which speak volumes whilst silently deleting many cross words and frustrations? Did our parents conceal their own stresses or have we all forgotten in our internal photobox library?
Like a child a mere four months before my Birthday I had been SO excited. I couldn’t wait. And now back I’m tired and a bit stressed and somehow I feel like bursting into tears when people ask how it was. I haven’t done the maths, in terms of what percentage was the best of times and what the worst. Certainly both were there.
After all it was our trip, tailor made by us encompassing all the things we like – animals (well, statues of lions, everywhere), transport (planes, water taxis, police boats and trains, long, cross country, cross border trains), towers (over Verona and Paris), swimming, cities, sunshine and the holy trinity of pasta, pizza and ice cream. I had my crutch, but new sunglasses and a capsule wardrobe including an outrageous maxi dress. We slimmed down the boys’ kit to lots of teeny animals, puzzle books and their nicest clothes. Mr thatwoman had a birthday t-shirt and new book. Good. To. Go.
The whole family, apart from Newborn (who wisely got a virus and stayed out of it) was hopping by the time the taxi came for the airport.
And it was. Good that is. Some of it was beyond amazing. Venice, I sigh just thinking of a town so beautiful that even my poor eye and our ageing digital camera can capture and make the stuff of fairy stories. We got there by train and fiddled around in the station, even on a day trip the detritus we lug around is incredible. Feeling we may have been over ambitious in that shadowy concourse (with its impenetrable ticket stamping and signing system) me and Mr Thatwoman nearly faltered. But as we walked out, bloody hell, the relief and awe. I mean, Venice, it really is, like really, no gimicks, a city afloat.
Verona, and our lovely flat, were darling. The swimming pool sparkled, as inviting as a blocky blue Hockney. So we made waves. Spider-boy learning what ‘out of your depth’ means, and, little by little, how to tame a pool stroke by stroke until ‘Daddy, look, I done a LENGTH’. There was ice cream and salami and cake (yup, cake) for breakfast. All hail the Euro enthusiasm for chocolate spread and pastry to welcome the day. Messy, sticky, delicious.
In the sun, as our hair dried out and we bussed around, being statues and drinking ‘boy wine’ (Sprite, from a grown up glass), our sons cemented every moment of play they’ve had before. They might be tiny but it seemed some magical development took place and they became mates, allies, enemies (of us). They started to share jokes and giggle without us. They took their siestas together each day when we were walking, waking spontaneously, together, as they heard us try to get a kip too. The big one playing with the little one, coaxing, sharing his toys, offering breadsticks.
On the first night Spider-boy secretly climbed into our bed and we woke up like modern Monkees, all four tucked up. By the end of the week as we arrived in France at midnight they were Brit Pop superstars, lying on the superking bed in their pants, the older one demanding apple juice on room service and the younger one sneaking a suck on a nobbly baguette end from the mini-bar.
And Paris, as Spring turns to Summer. Our townie lads, used to underground systems and pavement invasions took it in their stride. They scoured those streets for bargainous euro keyrings and tamed that tower and her expensive merchandise. Newborn didn’t even need to wake up until after we’d found someone to snap us all, together, most of us looking at the lens.
These memories are all so idyllic. And they are completely true. So it seems churlish to mention the plague of a sick baby, or the frustration and fumbling and fury and sadness of being all crutched up and on pain killers. Or to wonder if I can forgive myself for being so upset and crotchety when I felt left behind on foreign pavements, or the mindnumbing headfucking madness of barely any sleep for the whole six days. Which is not to mention the shitting in S Marco Square (not me, or thathusband).
I look back through our snaps. And see some picture perfect happy, happy boys. Two tired but smiling parents proud of their lads and only sometimes straining under the weight of trying to make everything fun enough whilst working out if we have enough Calpol, where the nearest toilet is and if we have the correct change in cents. I realise my complacency knows no bounds, for these images are true reflections of real happy hours.
Which makes me wonder, am I eternally ungrateful for what I have? Or just briefly unable to process happiness properly. Have I lost my perspective? Will I always see things through a filter of worry and frustration?
For the moment I’ve decided that I possibly built it up too much, and that a lot can be blamed the unfortunate combination of sickness and lameness for Newborn and I, not least as SPD sends me wobbling very close to depression. (I read this morning there is often a link between the two, so I’m not alone at least in finding myself on metaphorical quicksand both when I try to unsuccessfully lift my feet to a safe height and when I try to think positive).
If I’m honest things were also marred by my slightly glib refusal to let either spoil the ‘fun’. After all, I know I was reasoning to myself, depression is a thief of fun, as is illness, why should both bugger things up for us again?
And that ‘fun’ is the nub with really exciting things. With one off exciting events, as ever since the first Birthday party you can remember, is the looming irony that pressure to have fun really does hamper the fun part.
Our first holiday then. It had its moments.