Tales from Budapest a mother-and-daughter bonding weekend
A mother and daughter trip for two provided L Louise Chunn and her soon-to-be-wed d daughter with a wonderful chance to chat
It was no huge surprise to me when my 28-year-old daughter Alice told me that she was engaged. She had been with her boyfriend, Jason, for three years and had begun to talk enthusiastically about children in the future. As her twice-married mother, I wrestled with the possibility that her desire to marry fairly young might be traced back to my separation from her father when she was barely a toddler. Had I made her yearn for permanence and to settle down? It certainly made me think about the role of “mothers of brides”. In previous generations and other cultures, daughters were tantamount to property, passed over to the groom’s family to support and provide for. My feminist daughter, whose wedding is being mostly funded by her and her fiancé, would be offended by any such patriarchal nonsense. Yet I find myself wanting to be the Wise Old Woman, imparting something of timeless value about the state of marriage. Couldn’t we usefully construct a means of passing on what modern women should know as they approach this important step in their lives?
Alice jumped at the chance of some mother-daughter time. Before she started seeing Jason, we’d gone on a safari to Kenya and spent our downtime talking about relationships.
You might say that would be a gossip-fest, but actually it was a pretty acute analysis of the imperceptible factors that draw people together, and then bust them apart. What I had in mind now was stage two: the chance for Alice to ask me whatever she wanted about my experience of being married – and for me to come up with some sage advice, rather than escape the scrutiny with distracted dishwasher-packing. >>
as alice and i share a yen for travel, we decided to ryanair-it to budapest for our break. When you want to talk seriously, it’s a much better idea to be taking a walk, side by side, or sharing a coffee or meal than eyeballing each other in habitual surroundings, such as the family kitchen. We roared off only days after Christmas for two nights at the Corinthia budapest hotel. having just won three awards including the luxury historical hotel 2017 in eastern europe at the World luxury hotel awards, this really very grand hotel matched our high standards and threw in warm service, great massages in their top-notch spa, a superlative breakfast buffet and a central location.
Best of Budapest
excited by the foreignness of hungary’s capital, we took a while to work up to the marriage questions as we pounded the pavements, stopping for regular hot chocolates. both history graduates, we chose to hang out in museums and churches rather than the shopping streets. described by a friend as one of the most extraordinary museums anywhere, the house of terror was the old hQ of both the nazis at the end of the second World War, and the secret police during hungary’s Communist era. Chilling doesn’t begin to describe it, though i know from alice that my fascination with totalitarian fascism isn’t for everyone.
more typical tourist fare was our trip to the szechenyi hot baths complex, packed with people of all ages and girths. i loved watching bikini-clad alice delight in the sensual pleasures of a sunny winter afternoon spent soaking in thermal water. i had wondered whether her approaching marriage might make me feel a little old and spent, but so far it simply makes me feel proud and happy.
our marriage talks sprang up organically. one of the best was while dining in the atmospheric Central Café, seated slap-bang next to a hungarian jazz trio. over the schmaltzy violins we talked the importance of talking, and listening, to your husband. don’t say things are fine if they’re not. Find a way, sensitively, to keep the conversation going, even if sometimes you have to bite your tongue.
A strong bond
my approach to life is less planned than alice’s, and that’s not just because i’m 61. i think her way may make the idea of marriage easier — but i do feel that if you set goals that are too high you may risk feeling defeated when life veers out of your direct control.
some of our best times in budapest were tucked up in bed watching movies. Funnily, we picked appropriately: a thriller called Unforgettable in which the psychotic ex-wife tries to spoil the wedding of her husband’s new wife; and a comedy The Meddler in which widowed susan sarandon is driving her daughter mad by muscling in on her screenwriter lifestyle. even these became part of the message: the characters who held onto something of their own individuality were the heroines. We haven’t always been this hi close lose
– in her teens alice seemed to float far away from the family and me – but these days we feel tightly connected. perhaps that was the key thing i had to tell her: even when she is married, she will still be my daughter and i will still very much want to be with her. and we plan to spend a weekend every year travelling somewhere new together. Just don’t tell our husbands.
Louise Chunn is the founder of therapy platform welldoing.org
“Even when she is married she will still be my daughter”
“Alice and I share a yen for travel”
It’S ALL ABOut YOu!
Louise and alice exploring Budapest; below, mother and daughter in London in 1992