Friday 25th December 2009
Gestation: 13 weeks
One year ago.
It’s Christmas day. To celebrate, we have Christmas lunch with the thirty-odd Nethercotes. Thirty, odd Nethercotes, that is.
My Dad is the eldest of four boys. And each of those boys grew up and married a girl. Four brides for four brothers might not have quite have the same ring, but then again, life can’t always be as poetic as a Hollywood musical about chopping wood.
Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, each of the four boys and their wives had children. We were even born in a pattern:
- Boy, boy, boy;
- Girl, boy;
- Boy, girl;
- Girl, girl, girl.
I’m the second boy. Line one, position two. That’s me. And each of the four couples even delivered in order – the eldest ones finishing before the next one started – to keep it simple; to keep the pattern just right.
Our generation, however, has been a little less ordered. My younger brother bred before my older brother or me, seemingly unfazed by the rules that were in place. Instead, he and his wife politely ignored the sequence, procreating when they were good and ready.
Then again, given what has happened, I think they were pretty bloody wise.
* * * * *
It is a sentimental day.
My grandpa is edging ever closer to a nursing home, and as such, this is the last time Christmas will be at the family home in Vermont. Near where my grandparents were born, in the home they built in 1954. Back when there were apple orchards all around. This home will be auctioned next year; too big for him now that my grandma has died, too big now that he is ninety-two.
So, we gather for one last bash. Four brothers, their four wives, their ten kids, and their nine partners attend. Both of my brothers bring their kids, the beginnings of the next generation – two toddlers, two still in the oven.
This is the bit that’s tough.
But Suse does great. We keep light, bustling about, reacquainting with cousins, uncles and aunts in a continuous game of musical chairs. It’s wonderful to catch up with my extended family, all of whom are keen to show support and concern for what’s gone on for us over the last few weeks.
That is the official statement.
In reality, we struggle at times. It’s not easy. Because subconsciously, there is an expectation in place. After all, Nethercotes are breeders. From one white-haired man and his recently-deceased wife, twenty-three people across two generations now call themselves family. Now that is a legacy.
And, even though it’ll never be verbalised, Suse and I feel the desire – and, today, the responsibility – to continue in that tradition. That’s what’s going on for us this Christmas. That’s the back story.
So, we talk fast, we move fast, we keep the conversation from becoming too deep. We don’t mention the legacy. And we stick close.
Today, as for every day through this, we are each other’s security blanket.
After all, we’re the only ones who know how it feels to be us.
* * * * *
I manage to call one of my cousins by both of her sibling’s names, avoiding the use of her name at all. At least they’re both female; there’s a chance I might have looked foolish. My awkward effort causes Suse to fall apart with laughter; I can’t remember the last time I saw her like this.
And honestly, the day is fun. And despite her fears, Suse makes it through avoiding tears all together. She even manages to enjoy it.
It’s amazing what a bottle of champagne will for you, in the presence of pregnant in-laws, surrounded by the legacy.
We’re starting to turn the corner.
The next corner, that is.
* * * * *