Wonder Brother is getting married again.
He went public with this Momentous News at his 50th Birthday Weekend (it was a Capital Letter sort of occasion) and although no one was exactly blown away with surprise, we were all blown away with happiness at his happiness.
He looked positively runny all weekend, as we would say in our house.
It was a great party.
Although - hideous thought - I nearly missed it.
He had, with great forethought and much consideration, rung to talk through possible dates for the marking of his half century, and we'd agreed a weekend that I'd be able to get to the UK.
But a few nights later I woke in a schwett (as they say here), remembering that we had already accepted another, equally important invitation for the same weekend this side of the water.
Ye gods and little fishes, where were my wits?
No doubt nestling somewhere with my lost NavBar.
As dawn broke, I sent him a text with trembling fingers. His reply was - well, curt.
I had no one to blame but myself - I should have kept my calendar up to date. But isn't it typical? Yummy invitations are like buses. You can loiter palely for months on end and then, when they come - if they come - they all come at once.
It took me another few days to clock that actually his do was on the Saturday, our other invite was for the Sunday night, and for once the dread Ryanair played a blinder by flying in and out of our local airports at the right times for me to be at both events.
Joy of joys!
I packed a bag and headed to pastures new in Cheshire. My parents and siblings all packed bags and did likewise - from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England, from Scotland to the West Country, we all converged on the newest outpost of the empire.
It is hard to describe just how lovely the weekend was. Not simply for the Event, but for the people that went with it.
Perhaps it's only as you get older that blood really does thicken up a bit, but increasingly I find that time spent with my family is very precious. Looking back over the years, family get-togethers have been occasional markers, rather than the norm - we've been splattered hither, thither and yon most of my life.
It's made me think, once again, about locality. Even in this day and age, lots of families are still on each other's doorsteps.
Is having your family on hand a luxury or a pain, I wonder? I've never had the chance to find out, but I suspect that, despite all, it is probably a luxury.
Families love each other and hate each other, they embrace and bicker and argue. They slam doors but usually - eventually - open their arms and hearts wide. And many drop in and out of each other's lives almost daily. But not having grown up with that, I've neither looked for it, nor missed it, until now. Living in rural Ireland has highlighted the gaps I never knew I had.
Here, I am surrounded by collective families who have deep, subliminal connections with the places where they live. It is impossible not to sense the roots, the tensile bonds of kinship that link so many people together, the layers of history, relationship and intimacy that underpin communities, the invisible maps which they know instinctively but which I know nothing of. The warp and weft of blood with locality.
The intricacies of it all are something I will never unravel or understand because there is no imprint within me that recognises the pattern.
It is why, no matter how long I live here, I will never belong as my neighbours do. I will always be a 'blow-in', just as I would be if I came from Dublin, or Donegal. I may have a home here, but I don't have a homeplace. People use that expression often - 'my homeplace'. The soil from which they sprang.
The thing is, I don't have a homeplace anywhere else either, or yards of relatives to people it. No entrenchment. Does that make me a kind of locus-orphan? I don't know. For me, belonging is moveable and lodges in the soul rather than the soil. It is about the people I carry in my heart, and those who carry me in theirs. That is my homeplace.
So, strange as it may sound, my first visit to Cheshire was like going home.
Wonder Brother and his fair Betrothed had planned the weekend to perfection. No easy task when catering for the interests of an age-group ranging from 14-91, but our packed schedule flowed smoothly from one event to the next without anyone being aware of a cunning plan underlying the whole.
Yet, sitting out under the stars in their charming town garden, I realised that it wouldn't have mattered if we'd done nothing and been nowhere. Watching everyone laughing and joking over laden plates and glasses of wine, it struck me that it's all about the ease with which you pick up the threads. No matter where you all live, or how different your lifestyles, your opinions or your priorities; once together, the blood recognises its own and mingles seamlessly, the heart remembers the echoes the mind has long forgotten. Those are the things that mark out our nearest and dearest from all the rest. Those relationships are future-proofed, time lapses and locus notwithstanding.
I watched the young ones who'd managed to be there - the under 30s - catching up, swapping news, so full of their lives, and I remembered with blinding clarity and some nostalgia the place they are now at. At that age how radiant and full of promise the world is. Everything is an adventure, every dawn a new beginning, and time, if you ever think about it at all, is just a remote bank vault, bulging with funds. Happy as I am, it is an unalterable truth that living wears some of the shine off that polish, and eats quietly through that largesse.
But it is good, and right and proper that my nephews and nieces are still millionaires in that regard, that they too will have these spendthrift days to look back on. And family get-togethers that replenish the collective memory.
And it is beyond good that my brother and his lovely Betrothed have both come full circle - through the tarnished years back to a point where energy and happiness are raw and vibrant again. When life is for living and each dawn an adventure. Maybe, as he puts down tentative roots alongside hers, he will learn what it is to have a homeplace. But it hardly matters. He has found the homeplace of her heart, and she his, and I am so glad for them. Glad that they have found it, and known it for what it is, and seized it with both hands.
The chance of love, with the happiness it brings, the belonging it bestows, isn't like buses, chugging along at stolid intervals.
It is more like a blue moon, rare and special.
And oftentimes not even acknowledged or recognised.
|Blue Moon. We had one last month, and the next one falls on July 31, 2015|