Every year for the last eight or nine years, my mother has organised a “priests’ party” on some evening between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. I think she does it for my brother the priest. The priesthood is a lonely existence, and I suppose my mother feels sorry for priests at Christmas time.
Every year, this is an occasion for us non-priests in the family to hide. My mother goes into a paroxysm of cleaning. We help her out but try not to make eye contact with her. That can be dangerous. Someone invariably gets shouted at. One year, when I was TWENTY NINE years old, my mother got very upset with me because I hadn’t made my bed before the priests’ party. There are two problems with this. 1. You’d think that a time might come in your life when your mother no longer feels entitled to give you grief for not making your bed. In my family, that time will never come. 2. Why would a priest visiting for dinner go into my bedroom? And even if he did, what business is it of his what state my bed is in?
Anyway, we normally make our excuses and hang out with friends on the night of the priests’ party. This year, I had arranged to meet some of my friends from school. But I had to warn them I’d be late. My mother asked me to accompany my sister while she drove to collect an elderly retired bishop somewhere in the middle of nowhere and bring him to the party. I think my job was to chaperone them, just in case people would gossip about an old priest driving around with a young woman. It’s not often I get to defend ladies’ virtue.
As it turns out, my brother went with my sister, and my chaperoning was unnecessary. However, I still couldn’t be on time to meet my friends. My sister was driving my Dad’s car to collect one elderly bishop and my Dad was driving my sister’s car to collect another elderly priest, one to the north and another to the west. My brother’s car wasn’t working. So I had to wait to go to town until a lift and/or a car was available.
Even though I managed to get my sister’s car through the NCT test, I know the car’s weaknesses. My Dad doesn’t. He doesn’t know that if you leave the radio or the lights on for even a minute after you stop the car, that the battery dies. My Dad stopped in the middle of nowhere to ask directions and the battery went. My sister and brother had to go from one middle of nowhere to another middle of nowhere to rescue my Dad, the car and a priest.
Car drama! And I wasn’t involved. This is new for me. Car drama is my thing. (See this post for evidence of this, or this one, or this one, or this one, or here, or here. And that’s only some of them.)
I was in my bedroom, hiding from priests, waiting for a car to come so I could go to town, jealous of people having car drama without me.
Eventually, everyone got home. I got into a car without having to speak to a single priest. Which is very good going.
I got in to the pub to meet my friends over an hour after we’d been due to meet. I still think I’m young. But it’s nearly twenty years since we first met when we started secondary school together. And oh sweet lord, we’re much older in reality than in my head. We talked about babies. And weddings. And house prices. And mortgages. And lawyers. And bank managers. And going grey and going bald. And about how we don’t know what to do in nightclubs any more. They all have or are about to have babies. They are all homeowners. In my head, I’m just a little fairy princess. But in reality, I’m old enough to be a proper grown-up. Pffft.
I left my friends early. The car needed to be home in time to redistribute the priests back to the homes.
In the end, I only had to talk to one of the priests, and I can’t complain because he’s actually really nice. And my mother was delighted with the evening. The toughest bit of Christmas is truly done now. Phew!