‘Look, I just want to say, I’ve got you all an Easter egg. But I know they’re dead bulky to carry around and that, so, what I thought was, well, I thought that we could take them out of the boxes and then smash them to fit in your pocket.’
I hadn’t seen Mama since Christmas, and this is what she opened with.
We were all stood outside of Shoreditch High Street Station, freezing our tits off. Dad muttered something about wanting to give us the eggs as a surprise at the restaurant, and Mama stage-whispered something back about it’s bloody obvious we’ve got ‘em, Ric. They can see through the Tesco bag, you know.
I’m sure this wasn’t the introduction my brother’d had in mind as his fella stood back slightly, unsure of what to make of The Family. As first-time meetings go, it was pretty indicative of our dynamic as a unit, but still. We could’ve done better- if it weren’t for the fact it was perfect. WELCOME! THE WILLIAMS MATRIARCH IS SALLY FIELD IN BROTHERS AND SISTERS!
‘Hiya!’ Mama said, pulling him in for a hug. ‘I’m dead happy you could make it!’ There was much air-kissing and hand-shaking, and then somebody said, ‘Shit man, let’s get moving. It’s Baltic.’ We say that in my family. It’s never cold, always Baltic.
In a six, we trundled over the road, Easter eggs still in boxes, my brother holding onto our Mama as she chattered excitedly with his fella for the first time, Dad bringing up the rear, asking Calum, visiting from Spain, how he was and what he was doing now, egg boxes hitting against his calf in clunky rhythm, me leading the clan towards warmth and gin.
‘-bloody lovely hotel we’re in, right by the Barbican-’
‘-same cobbler that Prince Charles has you know-’
‘-leave for Thailand in three weeks-’
‘- just started work on the set of Mr. Selfridge-’
‘- I mean, she could call a bit more-’
It was talk, talk, talk, even as we hung up coats and blew into our hands, rubbing them for feeling, and the waitress appeared to ask what we’d be drinking.
I watched Dad as he watched his son watch his boyfriend, who was still talking with Mama, like HI GUYS! WE’RE HERE TOO! Calum was tugging at the neck of his t-shirt, oblivious to most of what was happening as he seemingly relived whatever memory had caused that embarrassingly large love bite on his neck in the first place.
I articulated an anecdote about upsetting my cousin over a comment about the Daily Fail on Facebook last week, and Jack told a story about a new film project he’s working on, and then Mum and Dad told the tale about how they’d gotten engaged that day, under the Dome of St. Paul’s, and how they’d then received a blessing from the Canon. My parents have been married 30 years.
Two hours later, after Dad had paid the bar tab and declared ‘Eeeee! They’ll never believe us back in Derby! I’ve just put a down payment on a London bar!’ Mama was holding up a toast to Pope Francis in the middle of an Indian restaurant. She slurred, ‘No, honestly, I’ve not a bad word to say against him,’ as the rest of us held up our free beer to chink bottles and said AMEN. It made me wonder if her blessing still counted.
‘God, you’re really alike, aren’t you?’ my brother’s fella noted in between mouthfuls of the most delicious curry I’ve ever tasted, toasting all done.
‘What, me and this drunk bitch?’ I asked. Mama laughed. I can say bitch to Mama, but only in a jokey way. We are also allowed to say the c-word at each other, if only in whisper. The fam allows you to call someone a wanker, but only under guise of saying the similar-sounding ‘conker’. As in, if somebody takes the last Quality Street at Christmas, you cough and say then say CONKER, and it means I wanted that toffee penny, dickhead. Also, we apologise not by saying sorry but by offering a sandwich.
The rules are complicated.
‘We are nothing alike,’ Mama said. ‘If she’s Beyoncé, I’m Whitney.’
The table roared with laughter. ‘She just out-you’d you!’ my brother’s fella giggled. ‘Everything I know about you makes so much more sense now.’ I was gobsmacked. She really had just out me-d me.
I went quiet in shock.
I sat at that table, watching the people I love most in the world get drunk and say inappropriate things to and about each other, Mama leading the way, and had one of the most adult realisations I think any woman can have: Shit. I’ve grown into my mother.
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