My sister C. flew in from London last weekend for her Christmas visit. I picked her up on Friday evening, then on Saturday afternoon, we went with Lady to do some Christmas shopping before driving all the way to my brother's house way out west. Lady stayed the night with them; she and her cousin A. are great friends. Then C. and I went over to another brother and went out to a pub in town with him and his girlfriend. It was such good crack. I chatted to a few people I knew from way back when I was at school, and to a few others I'd never met before. So much bullshit spoken in one short evening, well...not so short since we didn't leave until about 3am. I'm always on my worst behaviour when I go back home!
I'd booked a room in a restaurant for Sunday lunch so I could join all my siblings, our partners/spouses, our children and Dad and G (our step mum) for a Christmas party. I cannot actually remember the last time we were all together. I have 1 older brother and 3 younger brothers and 1 younger sister. So there were 13 adults and 9 children at the party. The restaurant is situated right in the middle of northern Ireland, so even though we were driving from North East and South West, no-one would have too far to go. My dad and step mum had picked up Gordon and my boys since I was away in our car. Lady travelled with my brother and his family and I met them all in the restaurant. I had wondered how Duncan would deal with the situation and when he first saw me, he was upset and crying asking for a "Christmas train", whatever that is! We all went into the room and a large table had been nicely decorated for us. The children were able to run around a bit and play together and Gordon and I took turns doing 'Duncan duty'. Someone had to stay right by him all the time since twice, he slipped past us all and into the kitchen, which really wasn't the safest place for a curious, agile, autistic boy. He enjoyed going outside for little walks or pushing buttons on a couple of game/gambling machines in the bar area. We all ate our meal; plentiful and fairly typical pub-grub standard. Then we all exchanged presents. We had decided to buy one gift for each adult and child, sort of a secret Santa thing, except 2 of my brothers had already bought gifts for all the children by the time I'd told them abut this plan so the children all ended up with a pile of gifts. We all truly enjoyed ourselves. It was marvellous just to have everyone in one place like that, and getting along so well because we really do. We may have driven each other mad at times when we were children, but as adults, it's just great to be part of a large family. Our children range in age from 9 (nearly 10) to 3 and they had so much fun together. I'm so glad Duncan was happy enough to just do his own thing even though we did have to be apart from the main group often when we were looking after him, but that's OK.
After a few hours, we packed up the bulging gift bags in our respective cars and drove off, each to their own corner of the country. My sister had to go back on Monday evening, so we just had a nice quiet day until then. We've all agreed that we will do this again regularly.