Things I like part four - being friends with my parents

We're sitting in el maison de puerto, the bloke and I with my parents. They look so out of place to me here - staring round the room like it's an exotic foreign place they've landed in. Which, I suppose it is.

We won't be long, just a little stop off on the way to having lunch with the bloke's parents. As he is such a regular, we're being treated like kings. Plates of tapas keep appearing at the table, which we pick at. Mum is torn. "Oh this is so lovely," she says. "We shouldn't leave it or it'll look rude… But we don't want to fill ourselves up, do we?"

Dad has no such qualms. He'll have room for everything. "This is marvelous, isn't it Margaret?" he says to my mum, between putting slices of jamon and queso manchego in his mouth. He is hypnotized by the huge sizzling plates of t-bone steaks - chuleton - being whisked out of the kitchen door and carried through to the restaurant, leaving trails of steam in their wake. Nothing impresses my dad as much as food.

At this point he turns to me, and grabs my arm. "You've made the right choice here mind pet, " he tells me, and I feel that he's talking seriously to me for the first time since they've arrived. For the first time in maybe years, actually.

"You have such a great life here. Much better than you would've had in England. We're so happy for you."

It's a sentiment that mum expresses too. Almost with a sense of relief.

"The people at the Spar supermarket always ask granddad after you," she says. "He tells them, 'Oh she'll never come back to this country. She's got it good over there'."

It makes me laugh as I can see him doing it. Walking stick in hand, and his cheeky lopsided smile - one side higher than the other.

They are both relieved, bless them. How hard must it be when one of your children is living somewhere so far away. And you don't really have a clue how they're doing. When for so many years the phone calls are few and far between and the standard answer, rolled out without much of a thought, to the question of "how are you?" was always: "fine".

Somewhere, in the golden space of time between when I left home - aged 18 - and now, my parents stopped being mythical bullet proof creatures and started being real people. I couldn't tell you exactly when I started seeing them this way – perhaps it's something that's crept up over time. More likely the thought began to take root when I began to really fully process the fact that they aren't going to be around forever.
And in turn, their perception of me seems to have changed. My mum is no longer incredulous with disbelief when she rings up to find I'm cooking something. There's a sense of being a co-conspirator when we launch into one of those 'oh how hopeless our men are (but we still love them)' chats. Though we were never that inseparable, 'tell each other everything' mother-and-daughter team of which everyone knows at least one, we have become equals. We have become friends.

Over the course of the weekend they're in Madrid I realise how much I enjoy their company. We have real conversations. Even dad's crappy jokes - "I was born just after the second world war - it was in all the papers" make me laugh rather than irritating like they did when I was younger. Even though he's still rolling out the same ones.

They've been married over 40 years. And though they're not the type of people to kiss or hold hands in public, it's clear to me how much they love each other. They simply couldn't function apart.

They met in a sausage factory. My dad did deliveries and my mum worked in the office. She had lots of young men asking her out, but she chose dad, and they were married when she was 23, and he was five years older.

I feel so grateful that they're still both here, and still together. And I'm beyond relieved that they love the bloke almost as much as I do, and he loves them in return.

When we have to say goodbye at the end of the weekend, something strange happens - I feel tears prickling at my eyes. That never happened before. Is this what being a proper grown up means?

"I'll miss you," I shout down the road after them. These two people who are my now my friends. Who will go home with lots of happy stories about eating baby pigs and huge slabs of meat. "I can't wait till Christmas to see you again." And I smile inside, knowing I really do mean it.


  1. Lovely post. I’ve just remembered that when I was in Spain once I got the girl I was with to take a photo of me under a similar huge bull like the one in your header. Ages later when I got the film developed (remember those) the bull had a huge cock spray painted on it and it was right above my head. What does that say...?

  2. Ha ha ha, that's brilliant. You obviously have an inbuilt comedy locator!

  3. This is very sweet. A wonderful feeling to have about your parents and to have them express pride about your life choices. Purely wonderful. Mine are doing the same sort of thing for me only I'm moving from the United States to England. For the first time in my life my father said he was proud of me for following my dreams. It really is something when your dad is real with you for a moment. It's something a girl will keep with her forever.
    You've got a wonderful way of expressing yourself. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thanks Wild Celtic, glad you liked it. :) And congrats to you for following your dreams. It's not an easy thing to to - up sticks and move to another country. And USA to England is quite a move. but I'm sure it'll be the best thing you've ever done. Good luck.

  5. Bravo. Very sweet. It's funny. People who start to get along with their parents after a time are usually people who have changed in their own lives. Our parents are the same as they were when we were children. We start to see them though a different pair of glasses.

    I like what you said about them not being around forever. This is it for me. When they are ready to pass I want to have had a great relationship with them.

    This motivates me to try a little harder when I don't want to. When my dad gives me advice. I accept it and don't say anything. No longer is there a need to argue.

    I am happy for you, but I do miss that jamon. I gotta get me some.

  6. Very good o deberia decir muy bien para practicar un poco.

    I sympathise a lot with the sentiments, I miss the jamon as well but then I miss bangers and mash the way mam made it

  7. I can totally relate to this post, I remember taking my parents out for wonderful tapas in a restaurant that we were regulars at in "The Old Town" Marbella. I envy you being friends with your mum, I am not. I adored my father and did think it may get better with mum when he died, but it didn't, it got worse I tolerate her but I don't like her. It is the learning that that is ok too, which is hard.
    This week my ex from Madrid found me!! after twenty years, I thought this was wonderful, until I realised it was with motives and in secret behind his wife's back.. Oh god what an awful week, as I had to tell him to leave me alone, for the second time.
    Sometimes the past and its memories are best left where they are,
    I will keep enjoying my glimpse of Spanish life through your page xxx

  8. Seamus: I think you are right, I think I've changed a lot over the past ten years, and possibly that's why we get on so well now. Maybe I've just grown up. And you're deffo right that sometimes biting your tongue is just the best policy! I will have some jamon in your honour!

    Bass: Welcome to my blog, thanks for reading and commenting too.

    Wildernesschic: Oh I love the old town in Marbella! I will be there in four weeks, can't wait! That's pretty mental about your ex, what a shame he had bad intentions. Hope you managed to get rid of him. x