We all went to Southwold to celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday. My husband and my three boys, my parents, my brothers and their partners. And an auntie, a baby in a belly and a dog. This was all of my family and I have to tell you: I love them all like crazy. And I really like them (which I know not everyone can say about their families). Suffice to say, it was good to all be together.
We holed up in a big fancy house, ate good food, mooched around the Southwold shops, took walks, played on the beach, and generally fantasised about living there. I mean, just look at these pictures. I defy you to not want to visit, at the very least.
My youngest two boys just love the seaside. They are diligent diggers. They are wild wave jumpers. They screech when their toes are chased by the chilly sea and run away just slow enough to be caught by it. They build sandcastles, bury toes, and don't seem to mind if it's nippy or warm. They could stay there for hours and it's a shame we didn't always have time to.
My feet had their first wriggles in the sand too. Really I'm an inland girl at heart: I'd pick a wildflower-bordered country lane, a bluebell-bespeckled wood, a windswept hillside or a verdant stream over the seaside every time. But I still love to visit the coast.
It was good to all be together, but this 70th birthday felt important. Not only has my Dad had a few narrow escapes healthwise in the last few years, but he's really struggled with aging. I often felt the need to hold on to the gladness that he's here with us still, and also to discard the negativity over his getting older and instead count our blessings. I really hope he can learn to embrace the passing of time because, to me, it is a sign of how lucky he is. The alternative to aging is not to be here at all, and I know too many people who've lost older relatives to know that we should be cheering for getting older. It means life.
I got to know my brother's partner a bit more too. They've been together a year or two but I haven't met him much. My middle brother and I can be quite different but I feel really fond of him and sort of protective. The youngest brother has always got on with his life and done well out of it. I worry about my middle brother more and want good things for him. I think that's what his new partner is: a good thing. It was lovely to see my brother so settled and at ease in himself.
Ooh this blog post is turning out much more reflective than I thought. I guess it was that kind of a holiday. I guess that's what happens when you bring all the branches of your family together to mark a critical gateway in life. And there we all were: me settled with kids, my middle brother settling down, my youngest brother on the journey to fatherhood (he'll be such a good one). And my parents heading towards older age but with such youthful hearts. There was this one time when my mum and her sister took me into Seasalt to buy me a coat (and that's another story - watch this space!), and my dad and eldest son came in to give their opinions too, and I just thought: I'm not a strike-out-on-my-own kind of a person. I'm quite independent in lots of ways but, gosh, I really need to feel like I'm sandwiched in the metaphorical hug of a big family all the time. And weirdly, the older I get the more I feel I need them around.
It was a really good break. Southwold: I'm sorry I didn't say enough about you in this post. You were cheery and inspiring. You were the kind of place I felt I belonged in. I couldn't live there (coast!), but my goodness you were the perfect match for a holiday. And to my family: I meant it. I really, really like you lot.