It could have been nice. There was no reason for it not to be nice. It was just that we’d gone our separate ways and lost each other, leaving nothing much in common besides a couple of soft-focus anecdotes, featuring donkey rides and ice-cream overdoses, that you’ve heard a dozen times, plus some old irritations that flare up like a phantom itch when we get together. The children had once felt like a second chance, for my brother and me, at least, but they let us down. We ate the turkey and said how moist it was, and lit up the Christmas pudding for the boys, then moved to the chintz sofas in the lounge wearing lopsided paper hats, persevering in the sort of dutiful drinking more likely to result in murder than automatic merriment.
We had a lively exchange about the new parking restrictions in the town centre, and a ritual disagreement about whether we should watch the Queen’s Christmas messages, as my father always wanted to. When my phone rang it was like hearing the all-clear in a bomb shelter.
I went into the kitchen, where my mother had pinned her offspring’s phone numbers to the fridge with a magnet from Durham Cathedral. On the window sill was a Christmas television guide, in which she’d put the tragic little asterisks next to the programmes she wanted to watch. I’d been sucked, as I always was, into the time warp of family, the instant rewind that takes you back to the roles you’ve grown out of.
© Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
The extract above I read on my Kindle today, on the train back to London. I’m half-way through that book; let’s just say that this passage struck a chord…