Gran’s Plans

A happy fam­ily story

My Weekly - - Contents - By Moira Gee

It was around the fourth of Jan­uary that the phone calls started. It was the same every year. “Hello, An­gela? It’s Gran. Re­mem­ber a week to­mor­row? Around twelve?”

“Yes, Gran, we’ll be there. Can I bring any­thing?”

“No, no, I’ll get ev­ery­thing in. I’ve got more time, with you work­ing. I’ll make Dan’s favourite cock-a-leekie soup.”

“That’s re­ally kind of you, Gran. He’ll love it.”

“I’ll do pan­cakes for you,” Gran promised.

“No, Gran, I have to lose weight this year,” An­gela protested, turn­ing away from the tempt­ing un­opened packet of mince pies on the kitchen shelf. “I won’t be eat­ing any­thing like that – it’s my New Year Res­o­lu­tion.”

“One day off your diet won’t do any harm,” said Gran briskly. “I’ll see you on the twelfth.”

Gran hung up leav­ing An­gela star­ing, be­mused, at her phone. “Your gran?” Dan asked, with a grin. An­gela sighed. “My gran,” she con­firmed. Dan went on wind­ing up an un­wieldy string of Christ­mas lights which he knew from ex­pe­ri­ence would never fit back into their box.

“Hope she’s mak­ing her cock-a-leekie soup,” he re­marked.

Jamie? It’s Gran. You and Shona are com­ing on the twelfth, aren’t you? Twelve o’clock.”

“We’ll be there as soon as we can, Gran,” Jamie replied. “It’s dif­fi­cult to stick to an ex­act time with Patsy.”

“It’s al­ways the same with ba­bies. I can’t wait to see her again. All three of my great-grand­chil­dren are com­ing. I’ll be mak­ing steak pie – your favourite.”

“Great. Thanks, Gran.” Smil­ing, Jamie put the phone down, cir­cled Jan­uary the twelfth on the cal­en­dar and went back to dis­man­tling the Christ­mas tree.

“Bet­ter not eat for the next week, Shona,” he warned his wife. “Gran’s house on the twelfth.” The phone rang at Tom’s house. “Tom? It’s Gran. Could you bring a cou­ple of your fold­ing chairs along when you come next week?”

“Sure, Gran. We’ve got four. Any­thing else you need?”

“No, thanks, Tom, it’s all un­der con­trol. I’ll look the Scrab­ble out. Re­mem­ber how ratty you were last year when you couldn’t find a dic­tionary to check all Cather­ine’s strange words?” “Me? Ratty? Never!” Tom laughed. Gil­lian re­ceived the next call. “Yes, we can bring spare cut­lery, Gran.”

“Thanks, Gil­lian.”

No, Mum, I don’t mind what kind of tea I drink, hon­estly,” Mau­reen as­sured her, ad­ding the Christ­mas cards to the bun­dle of pa­per for re­cy­cling.

“I might as well get in the things peo­ple pre­fer,” Gran pointed out. “I’ll make an ap­ple pie for Alan and a choco­late cake for young Ian. Cather­ine likes that too, doesn’t she?” “Well, yes, but –” “And you like prawn cock­tail and I know Gil­lian likes pâté. The new deli has a lovely se­lec­tion. I’ll get a cou­ple.”

“Mum, do you re­ally think you’ll need all that?” Mau­reen asked ten­ta­tively. “That’s three dif­fer­ent starters – pâté, soup and prawn cock­tails. You’re giv­ing your­self so much work.”

“Oh, good heav­ens, I’ve just re­mem­bered, Wendy’s ve­gan now. I’ll get a melon for her. She likes melon.” “Mum …” “Must dash, love. See you next week.”

Tina? It’s Mau­reen. Have you heard from Mum yet? She’s just been on to me –”

Tina groaned. “Don’t tell me. She’s or­gan­is­ing an­other fam­ily gath­er­ing – or The Great An­nual Eat­fest, as Colin has taken to call­ing it.”

Mau­reen couldn’t help smil­ing. Her laid-back brother-in-law was the per­fect an­ti­dote for Tina’s rant­ings.

“Twelve o’clock, Satur­day the twelfth,” she con­firmed.

“I sup­pose she wants the whole gang there, as usual?”

“She does seem to be ex­pect­ing quite a crowd. Wendy, Tom and their two;

me, Jim and Cather­ine; Jamie, Shona and the baby; you, Colin and – will your boys be go­ing?” “Prob­a­bly. They never miss a feed!” “Then there’s Gil­lian and Pe­ter and their three. And Mum her­self – wow, that’s twenty!”

“It’s ridicu­lous! Her house is far too small,” Tina stated sharply. “It was bad enough when the chil­dren were small but now they’re all grow­ing up and hav­ing their own kids.”

“She gives her­self so much work, ar­rang­ing this get-to­gether every year. She’s not get­ting any younger. But you know what she’s like – she won’t ac­cept help.” Mau­reen sighed. “She’s do­ing four dif­fer­ent starters.” She re­gret­ted the words in­stantly. “That’s just crazy!” Tina ex­ploded. “She al­ways pre­pares far too much food – and there’s loads left over be­cause ev­ery­one’s com­pletely fed up with food by New Year’s Day!” “I know.” Mau­reen nod­ded. “Then she gives us all the left­overs to take away.” Tina chuntered on. “Last year I came home with a bag of cheeses, an un­opened twenty-four pack of crisps, fif­teen fairy cakes and twelve cans of Coke. Well, I’m not bring­ing any­thing home this year.

“It’s time Mum learned to stop go­ing so over-the-top. I guar­an­tee that next week there won’t be a sin­gle flat sur­face that doesn’t have a plate of food on it – and that’s a night­mare with the lit­tle ones wan­der­ing about.”

“Oh that re­minds me, baby Patsy will be there,” Mau­reen re­mem­bered.

“Ever­body will be there! That’s the crazy part.” Tina was re­ally ex­as­per­ated now. “If Mum wants to keep in touch with ev­ery­one, why doesn’t she in­vite each fam­ily round sep­a­rately? She can’t have a proper con­ver­sa­tion with any­one when there are so many there at once.”

“I know. By the way, it would help if you brought your spare ket­tle.”

Tina sighed. She seemed, sud­denly, to have run out of the en­ergy needed to protest fur­ther.

“I’ll bring it.”

“Good. Oh, look, I’ll have to go, Tina, I’ve got a call wait­ing. I’ll see you next week.”

Mau­reen hung up and took her other call.

“Hello, love, me again. Do you know where I can buy gluten-free flour?”

Just af­ter twelve o’clock on Jan­uary the twelfth, a stream of cars be­gan lin­ing up out­side Gran’s house.

Stand­ing at the open front door, she watched as en­gines were si­lenced, doors slammed shut and the air was

“There won’t be a sin­gle FLAT SUR­FACE with­out a PLATE OF FOOD on it…”

filled with voices and laugh­ter as her fam­ily were re-united in a flurry of hugs, hand­shakes and play­ful in­sults.

“Hi, Jamie. How’s fatherhood suit­ing you? Oh, Shona, hasn’t she grown? Hello, Patsy – what a cu­tie you are.” “Noth­ing like her dad, then!” “Aun­tie Mau­reen! I haven’t seen you for ages!” “Did you have a nice Christ­mas?” “I’m ready for you this year,” Tom said to his sis­ter-in-law, pro­duc­ing a fat dic­tionary from his ruck­sack.

“Cather­ine, you’ve lost weight. You look great!” “I love your hair, Tina.” Grad­u­ally, ev­ery­one made their way in­side, re­mov­ing coats and fall­ing over boots and tod­dlers in the vestibule, then moved in to the lounge.

“Oh, the room looks lovely!” ex­claimed Mau­reen.

“Mum! It’s bad luck to still have your Christ­mas tree up,” Tina re­mon­strated. “You re­ally should have taken it down last week, like the rest of us.” Gran was quite un­per­turbed. “I wanted the place to look fes­tive for a lit­tle longer. The lit­tle ones like it.” She in­di­cated the youngest mem­bers of the fam­ily gath­er­ing round the tree, watch­ing the twin­kling lights. She winked. “You never know, there might still be some presents hid­ing among the branches.”

All the lit­tle faces lit up and Gran smiled at her two daugh­ters – one look­ing im­pa­tient and one anx­ious.

“I al­ways think Christ­mas flies past far too quickly,” she said. “Let’s try and make it last a lit­tle longer. Af­ter all, it’s not of­ten we all get to­gether like this un­der the same roof, is it?”

“It is, though. We do this every year!” Tina protested.

“You al­ways in­sist on it,” pointed out Mau­reen.

“Yes,” said Gran. “Once a year. It’s my Christ­mas present to my­self.”

A burst of laugh­ter rang out at that mo­ment. The three of them looked round and for the first time, Mau­reen and Tina saw the day through their mother’s eyes.

So the house was over­crowded, but how lovely to have four gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily all un­der the same roof for one happy, fun-filled day. Ev­ery­one was talk­ing and laugh­ing. The adults shared long run­ning fam­ily jokes, con­tin­u­ing friend­ships made long ago, while the chil­dren forged bonds which would last a life­time. This was a day of pure joy. And of course, thanks to Gran’s ef­forts, every sin­gle one of them could en­joy some of their favourite food. Gran smiled in quiet sat­is­fac­tion. “This is my favourite day of the year. It’s not such a bad thing to do, is it?”

Tina picked up a nearby bot­tle of bub­bly and poured three glasses.

“No, Mum, it isn’t.” She gave Gran a hug. “Now, any­one for Scrab­ble?”

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