Last weekend was ‘The family picnic’. Many years ago, my grandfather and his brothers and sisters (and their kids) all met in a park in Enfield, North London near to where they lived at the time and had a big picnic to celebrate my great-grandmother’s 60th Birthday. They decided that this was a pretty nice thing to do as they all got to see their cousins and second cousins and third cousins and the only other time they did this was at funerals.
And so a family tradition was born, and ever since then on the last Sunday of July, without anyone needing to check, come rain or shine, we all make the trip to Enfield and meet under the same tree for a picnic. I think only one of the families still live in Enfield, the rest come from far and wide – Kent (my family), Norfolk, Brighton, the Isle of Wight, France and even Australia. It’s a really lovely thing but also kind of weird. It’s really nice to see my cousins and aunts and uncles, but also all my mum’s cousins are there which is kind of weird as we only ever see them at The Picnic so we have awkward “I only see you once I year and I’m not totally sure if you’re Janice or Susan” kind of conversations. It’s the sort of thing you groan at when you realise next weekend is The Picnic, but also secretly love.
I didn’t go last year – it was a month after my first failed IVF round and I just didn’t have it in me. This year I was determined to go, especially as some of my cousins that I hadn’t seen for ages would be there.
So I went, I chatted awkwardly, I ate sandwiches and had an icecream. I watched all the relatives of my age group play with their children, tell their children off for not sharing or sulking at having to be at the picnic, pick them up when they fell over, share an icecream with them. And guess what? It fucking hurt. To see my family with their own little families. To see them pass on the tradition to their kids and the thought that I’ll probably never have anyone to pass this onto.
For the last few months I’ve thrown myself into the ‘summer of fun’. I’ve tried my hardest to enjoy life and to let go of all the hurt and pain. But it’s impossible. There is a huge burning hole inside me and no amount of cocktails will fill it. People tell me to put it out my mind and to focus on the wedding, and I’m trying I really am. And don’t get me wrong, I have had some really fun times recently. But you can’t think about a wedding 24 hours a day – the fear and the pain creep back in no matter what distractions you organise. And even when I’m not directly thinking about it all, I can feel it. It’s physical. This gnawing hole deep inside – the same place where a baby should be.