We scampered down to St Edwards, Cheddleton early Saturday morning to hear the final arrangements for the girls’ Confirmation and my Reception into the communion of the Church of England. A ‘master class’ in festive flower arranging was also taking place so this ancient building was bustling with activity, scented with spicy aromatic greenery with carols drifting in the air. It felt good to be joining a ‘living’ beautiful Church.
I was returned from lofty heights by the invitation to dress the Children’s Window for Christmas. My heart sank as I remembered our Harvest Festival display which had rolled over in the back of our van; the home-made bramble jam smashed on the road as I opened the door; and on my return from the bin with the sticky broken glass I stepped on the prize-winning squash that had formed the centre-piece. I remember how I’d dumped the tragic ‘upside-down’ offering on the back pew and raced back to Tilly who was most unwell at the time. I had laughed and cried all the way home and then delighted when I heard that the wonderful ladies had worked their floral magic and transformed our Harvest disaster into a work of art. I will pray for inspiration and a smooth ride to Church for our next display.
Saturday afternoon was the Brownies and Guides’ pantomime in the Forum Theatre, Hanley where the Mow Cop Players were performing Cinderella. It’s great to see Rolf having special time with the girls as, like Cinderella, he is so often left at home to attend to our B&B and can miss many ‘magical moments’. It was also an opportunity for me to flick a duster around and mop some floors, as I am so often out enjoying ‘magical moments’ that the housework gets overlooked!
The panto was a triumph and a great time was had by all. All the more enjoyable for Tilly as there were no loud bangs or flashes and no-one left the stage to talk to her. Of all the children that I know, those who use wheelchairs are the least happy around dressed up Characters, and unfortunately, it is these children that the characters make a ‘bee-line’ for! Such is life!
Saturday night was a winning combination of ‘tea like a proper family for once’ with ‘Strictly’ and ‘X Factor’ on the couch! It must be lovely for Tilly to park her twenty stone vehicle and snuggle up with her family. It is certainly wonderful for us.
We were up early Sunday morning as with almost military-like precision we’d planned the day to include Confirmation and then Tilly’s Christmas Party sleepover with the Children and Airways Team at the Alton Towers Hotel. This was a very big deal for us as it was the first time that Tilly would be away form home without either her Mummy or Daddy. Tilly was going to be looked after by Sue and Eileen who know Tilly so well and are trained respiratory specialists. Even more exciting was that Tilly would be with a few other children who access the same service. Two of the children attending had actually done a fundraising event to pay for this very exciting treat.
As I huffed and puffed to get Tilly ready I experienced one of those heart-stopping moments when Tilly remarked, “I’m hard work, aren’t I?” My heart instantly shattered into a thousand pieces as I struggled to find a way to explain to Tilly that caring for another person can be ‘hard work’, but is one of the easiest things in the world to do, because it is done with such love. I explained that there is no greater job on the planet than helping someone you love, and that all parents look after their children, and then, in turn parents can be looked after by their children. I tried to explain that it is an honour to care for others and not just a duty. My response seemed to satisfy Tilly, but I feel desperately unhappy that my little girl thinks that she is ‘hard work’. I’ve tumbled the issue around and around in my head and feel that I must have gone wrong somewhere along the line and I must make more effort to ensure that Tilly knows that looking after her is no chore, but an absolute pleasure.
The Confirmation Service was divine. The girls dressed in beautiful white flowing dresses to make up for being dressed in cream corduroy trousers and white home-knit cardigans at their Christening! I have never been forgiven for such an indiscretion! The welcoming atmosphere in the Church was palpable with our ‘family’ hugging the girls and giving out special greetings cards. The Priest in Charge had worked hard to arrange the service to accommodate a Baptism, nine Confirmations and three Receptions. Candice read one of the Readings and everything, pretty much, went according to plan. The star of the show, however, was Gordon, the Bishop of Stafford who officiated and brought a depth of humanity, humour and love that touched us all. We shall never forget this special event.
Afterwards, we all enjoyed refreshments, still bathing in the wonderful glow that the service had generated. I then whisked Tilly away to her Alton Towers’ Adventure. The children and Staff went off to find Santa’s grotto and I stayed to set the equipment up in Tilly’s room. It felt very strange to leave it there for someone else to take charge of. I kept thinking of Tilly’s delight at being there ‘on her own’ and did my best to ignore feelings of sadness as I drove away.
At home, Rolf felt the same, but managed to cheer us with his impressions of the Bishop. There were many moments during the evening when Rolf would say, “I don’t like it,” but we managed not to leap in the car and spring Tilly home. We kept saying that this is how any parent would be feeling, but we both knew that this was probably not the case. This inspirational trip is a milestone in our lives, and we must be forever thankful to the CAST team for having the courage and insight to organise it, and to the two special youngsters who raised the funds for it.
I was about to get stuck into the Blog when Rolf suggested that I might like to watch Dr Doolittle. I was about to decline when he advised that Candice had hoped that I would like to watch it with her. To my shame, I had not thought of this wonderful opportunity, but I will forever be thankful to Rolf for the most heavenly of afternoons snuggled up on the couch, under the lights of the Christmas tree, with my beautiful Candice. I temporarily removed myself to the table to enjoy the most scrumptious of fish pies ever, and then retreated back to ‘snuggle-zone’ with my beautiful daughter for the final of ‘X Factor’. Such a treat!
Tilly telephoned to say that she was having a fabulous time and had eaten enough for ‘ten bears’! Obviously not off her food so all must be well!