Fondest Of Cousins

We arrived back in the UK in spring, one of the most beautiful times to be in the UK. My mother in law picked us up at Heathrow and took us back to her home in Kent. As always everything seemed so foreign to me, though I loved the lushness of the landscape and the old towns we passed through. S was limping a lot more than she had when we saw her last though she was the same as ever. Bright and interested in everyone and everything and so thrilled to see her grandson again.

When we reached her home we found that the assorted mass plantings in pots she arranged for the small row of townhouses were in full bloom, and a delightful welcome. Once inside we sat in the lounge room while D made a pot of tea and a coffee. There was an abundance of little cakes and biscuits. Eventually D’s sister A popped around and after exclaiming GOSH at everything and especially over the nephew that she had only just met, showed us her children’s cot which had been set up for C J in the small third bedroom, next to D’s bedroom where we slept.  It was a wooden one, quite light and painted white. I was unsure if it would take the weight of a twenty month old but that was probably because while S was visiting us she had insisted on buying us a really heavy sturdy one from David Jones in Bondi Junction. We had passed it on to D’s friends he had met through the Healing Ministry at St andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.

After many cups of tea for them and coffees for me A went to pick up her boys from their private school in Bromley. R and W came in and sat down and had a huge afternoon tea and then went into the garden. They seemed a bit bemused by the Australian cousin they had never met. The townhouses has a communal mini forest which was fabulous as it screened the units from the townhouses in the complex and the boys went to play out there with C J following . C J decided he had had enough of the formalities and put his arms around each of the boys separately and would not let go, eventually falling to the ground with each cousin under him. He held on tight and they screamed laughing and the ice was broken. It was one of the first instances where we saw C J charm people, win them over with sheer love, even as an infant. From that day they were the firmest of playmates, fondest of cousins, and to C J much adored older boys to look up to.

He had of course heard of them since he was born, seen photos of them and we had both prayed for them whenever we said prayers at night with C J so he indeed felt he knew them intimately. It was such a feeling of joy for me to see him at last with his cousins, playing in the wonderful area outside the wood. Of course an adult always had to be present as C J  still had a habit of escaping if given half a chance so I stayed outside with them. Over the afternoon some of the lovely neighbours popped in to say hello, though several had moved out while we had been in Australia.

Over the next week we visited all his father’s relatives and his grandmother’s friends, driving around in the family station wagon. We loved going to Mark’s and Spencer’s and going to the lovely parks. We went up to London to take all three boys to the zoo and also took Poppy, S’s neighbour Iris and Mike’s young daughter out a lot. C J adored her, it was the start of his fixation on pretty girls with blonde hair.

After a while D’s brother in law came over for a family meeting after C J had gone to bed and they discussed the way forward for us now that we were back in the UK. It was established that S would gift an  equal amount of money to what we had so we could buy a house outright there. She also gifted an equal amount to A for her own use. They decided it would be best if D got a job in town and commuted there and back so we would need to look for somewhere on the Victoria Line. I was a bit put out because we had said we were going to look for church work. There were lots of positions in the area for Vergers and Pastoral Care workers and I was looking forward to exploring that over the summer.

However D went along with everything and found a job at a big London store almost immediately. Meantime S and A took me to look at houses in areas I knew nothing about, next to railway lines and in streets with the same house repeated at infinitum.  They all looked the same to me, converted from the original two up two down. I was not really sure what I was looking at but D said we needed to be near his family and A mentioned being near to good schools to us for the future.

Meantime things were getting a bit tricky at S’s house. She had a habit of leaving her lounge room door open. This opened onto her little garden which had a fence and gate and then after that was the forested area. Further down past the end of that was the main road. A very very busy road. C J was still waking in the night with his Myoclonic Jerks and on weekends when his dad was off I had a sleep in on a Saturday. Sunday was church. One Saturday I awoke about nine and wandered downstairs, heard fervent talking in the kitchen, where the door was shut. After looking out onto the gorgeous day through the open lounge room door I wandered in to get my cup of coffee and asked where CJ was . His father and grandmother looked perturbed that I had interrupted them and said he is in the lounge room of course.

I told them he was not and asked when they had seen him last. They had no idea at all. Once they started talking, usually about cricket or tennis they lost all concept of time. I ran in my dressing gown and bare feet down the back gardens, nothing. Then I ran around the buildings and the neighbours saw me through their kitchen windows which faced the front, and came outside. None of them had seen him but eventually Rita, three houses down, said he had run by in his nappy about twenty minutes before. Then he had run back and returned with his cricket bat and a ball. I could not believe that they did not go after him. He was little more than a baby. So I ran towards the road and as I was about to go to the entrance to the complex I heard C J. I turned towards the tall apartment building in the complex, usually hidden by the small forest, and there he was. Filthy dirty, smiling his head off, throwing the ball against the wall and hitting it with his cricket bat.

I picked him up and brought him back, so relieved and so furious that I was nearly sick. Nobody seemed to realise why I was so upset, it was like I was speaking a foreign language. If this had happened where we lived in Sydney the neighbours would have stopped him, or at least shown a bit of interest in helping to look for him. I picked him up and took him upstairs to bathe him and get him dressed. And to try to calm down before I lost my temper with the two adults downstairs who seemed to think I was over reacting. Once we were both dressed I took him for a walk down into the town, sitting with a cup of coffee and a toasted bun at the tea house.

Eventually we found a lovely little cottage, only a short walk from both C J’s aunt and grandmother, and I made a friend in the process. The sellers were an enrolled nurse M, and the father a teacher. They let me know about playgroups and schools and CJ played with their little boy who was the same age. While we waited for the settlement to go through no other incidents of CJ running away to play occurred, he got drunk instead.

His grandmother always kept the lounge room  door closed after that incident but continued in her usual way of having breakfast in her kitchen. She had it set up really well with a toaster on the breakfast table, the wall phone just above her for making appointments etc  she was quite set in her ways but it suited her, she had lived alone for many years and this worked for her. That morning I had been down to the GP practise where I had been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism when I was pregnant. This time it was about my bladder incontinence and I preferred to go without CJ as he kept touching the Spectulums etc  S kindly offered to look after C J. He loved to talk on her telephone when she was not looking  many the time we came in and he cheekily grinned at us as he chatted away!

This time however when I returned CJ was not in the kitchen on the phone, he was swigging sherry from his Granny’s cut glass decanter, totally sloshed! The cheeky look on his face was so funny I had to get S to show her.  The little bugger never touched any after that and his S finally childproofed the house!