TLOML, on the other hand, not so much. He has known my family now for almost six years. You would think he had it all down by now. And yet, he still made some naive errors.
First of all, he failed to appear in the kitchen during a hastily put together lunch. Five children and five adults squeezed around the table to devour some cheese on toast. TLOML, relaxing in the living room, noticed it had gone quiet and came to find out where everyone had gone to discover all the cheesiest bits of toast gone. He reproached me for not calling him in, but as he knows, in the chaos of that house, no-one is keeping track of meal attendance.
Secondly, he then said 'Does anyone want a cup of tea'. 'Not with lunch!' said all the other grown ups, much in the horrified tone that one might respond to an offer of, say, a squashed spider on their toast.
Later that day he shook his head and said, 'your family, you have so many unwritten rules. Why was everyone so freaked out by drinking tea with cheese on toast'. I could not articulate for him the reason why - it was so obvious and so deeply felt.
A few days later we were back for Sunday lunch, and TLOML sat at the wrong end of the sitting room. I know, hilarious, isn't it? Everyone in my family knows that on Sundays we sit at the back of the sitting room, by the window onto the garden, where the toys are. Never at the TV end of the sitting room. Oh, the shame! And yes, again, he called me out for ridiculous unwritten rules.
Another good one is the order with which you tackle afternoon tea (hot things first, even if they're sweet; then sandwiches; then anything else sweet). The gasp that went around the table the first time he reached for a slice of cake when he hadn't even touched a sandwich - it echoes through my nightmares still,
|Another rule: napping in communal areas after lunch ins fine (before would be frowned on).|
I suppose every family have their modus operandi, ways of being which are so long established they feel like iron-cast rules. It takes an 'outsider' (albeit one who married) to highlight them, perhaps to disrupt them a bit, to keep things fresh. On reflection, a cup of tea would have just hit the spot with that cheese on toast.
But as we now only return home once a year, I take a great deal of pleasure in knowing that the rules of my parents house will remain just the same. There will always be a right end and a wrong end to sit in the living room, and a correct order to eat afternoon tea. I just need to make sure my husband is better briefed next time.