While it’s undeniably great to spend time with family at Christmas, you should never underestimate the joy at returning them to their own home and getting yours back in the process.
Although it is a process filled with numerous layers of guilt. Have you been good enough to them in their time with you? Would they feel they have had a decent stay? Have you looked after them? Are you trying to get rid of them too quickly? All the guilt. Piling on. Guilt upon guilt upon guilt. But that’s all weighed against how much more could you do together, how much longer could you go not doing things you want to do because you don’t want to leave your house guest alone or force them off to bed at a much earlier hour than they were going so that you could have some time to yourself. All that stuff.
We had to take mum back before the forecast snow came, or didn’t come, depending on how accurate the weather was. Some snow did come, as it happened, but nothing like what was originally forecast I think so we could have kept her longer than we did and still managed to get her home safely, but conversely she lives on top of a hill and if it snows a lot that hill is generally cut off, for all intents and purposes, for a while. And we’d have had to keep her longer.
Plus, we’d introduced her to New York Zoo – a game Carole bought me (in Italian, bless her) – which despite all her cluelessness and stroke-addled bafflement she came dangerously close to winning. In the end Carole won, which is just as bad in some ways – especially as it was a present for me so she should have let me win. But after last year when she trounced us at Azul, when she comes that close to winning we have to get her out of the house as quickly as possible. Any longer and she could pull a Daniel on us and ruin everything we hold dear.
But you do feel bad about it. You really do. Because you’re taking her from a place of merriment and laughter to an empty house with no-one else to laugh with. It was hard to do. Normally I’m not even involved in the returning of the mothership, but this year I couldn’t use work as an excuse not to do it and I had to go anyway as her existing carbon monoxide alarm had started alerting her to its end of life, and that had sent her into a panic that she was gassing herself in her own home. So I had to go to fit a new one and reassure her that she wasn’t going to be found, cherry red, slumped in a chair.
And that if there was carbon monoxide in the air, you’d really hope her alarm would do more than one beep every five minutes to alert her to the danger.
There was a small moment of panic for me, though, as I was fitting it. Because it did go off and for the briefest of moments I thought that actually mum was slowly gassing herself into oblivion but it turned out that I was just holding it against me and that either I was blocking the air intake or pushing the test button with my belly…