I missed home today for the first time in the Diaspora and the reason is the experience I had with a certain family, the Boltons who invited a few of us over for a festive dinner at their home. Mal and Wendy who have been married for about 35 years, invited a few of us from church into their home today after church and gladly I took up the invitation as an avenue for me to be part of a proper English family for a day.
We arrived at their lovely home, which is set out in typical English taste – simple and sparsely but very tastefully furnished. It was a beautiful home. On arrival, Wendy invited us all to table, which she had set out with mashed potatoes, green peas, carrots, cream, gravy, Yorkshire pudding and sliced ham. It was a typical English meal and I must say, as averse as I am to English meals I did enjoy this one because there was meat in it and something that resembled stew. So long as I see those two things I can always cope. After the meal, we had ice cream, carrot cakes, chocolate cubes, little pastry balls (I did not get the name of that), cream and a jelly-like cake that tasted like heaven. And then we all sat ‘as a family’ in their living room, which had a really beautiful electric heating place and Wendy set before us a pile of wrapped gift items and we proceeded to play a game.
I must say that as Wendy and Mal took turns clearing our plates away, I noticed a kind of sync between the two which was not spoken in words but acted out naturally. In fairness to them it was not even acted. They were just themselves – two people in love, who had reached a rhythm that was no longer forced. What touched me the most was that Mal cleared the plates, washed them and put it away with such care in his eyes, often looking at Wendy and poking some fun her way. If love had a definition, Mal and Wendy were it. As much as I know they can’t be the perfect couple without any problems at all, it was encouraging to see these much older people still so fond of each other.
Back to our pile of gifts after the meal: Wendy wrote some numbers on sheets of paper, wrapped them up and put them into a bowl and we were asked to pick numbers. The rule of the game was that, everyone picked a number and number 1 would pick a gift, unwrap it, show it to every other person, and then number 2 would proceed to pick his or her own gift too. The twist in the game however, is that if number 2 picked a gift and did not like it, he or she can simply take number 1’s gift and swap it without any objection from number 1, and the same goes for number 3 who had the power to take number 1 or 2’s gifts if she didn’t like hers … this will go on until the last number. After a full round of noise making and politicking and swapping, we all ended up with different gifts, then Wendy put the numbers back into the bowl, we selected numbers again and this time, we started with the highest number back to 1. What I learnt as we played the game was something strangely connected to my views about life. I noticed that those that were obviously attached to a gift had the eyes of everyone on their gifts and at every opportunity, someone took the gift off them. However, those that did not act so attached got away with the best gifts of all. Although I will admit that this theory did not hold true in everyone’s case, but relatively that seemed the overriding trend. What I learnt from that little game as I held on to my electric toothbrush till the end and finally lost it was that, at times good things will come to you if you are not hell bent on getting it.
After the game we had Mulled wine, which is a traditional Christmas drink in this part of the world. It is wine heated up with some fruity flavours and at times with a little spice added to it. It is usually served hot like coffee or tea and it smells and tastes good. After all the laughing and joking we had more games, each with a different twist and each with a different level of rowdiness and laughter and Mal and Wendy joined us in all the games. In one particular game, Mal was expected to look at some words written on a card and act out the word so that we (his team) could guess it. After a frustrating one minute of trying to act out ‘Bottleneck’ he gave up and threw all the cards away. We all ended up rolling on the floor with laughter at his reaction. At the end of the day, Wendy led us in prayer and Mal told of how we should all understand that wherever we were in the world we were part of a family of God and we should treat everyone around us as if they were our brother or our sister because that is what they were if we claim we are a part of God’s family.
It was not Mal’s words that touched me the most today but his home, and the way those things he did unconsciously preached louder than the words he said. After having a great Sunday at the Boltons we all headed up back home and on my way back I could not help replaying the experience over in my head and understanding what Christ had said about Christians being the light of the world and how a light set on a hill shines in darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Mal and Wendy radiated something more than both of them put together, and whatever it was they radiated,it lit something within me. I kept asking myself as I traveled back home that “if only our lives as Christians made louder noises than our mouths did; if only we did not need a Mass or a vigil to preach the gospel of Christ; If only we let the most powerful tool God has given us do the work on our behalf; and if only we lived our lives in a way that will show how golden God wanted our hearts to be. How wonderful would it be?”
As you are already aware, I lost my coveted electric toothbrush in our gift game but I left Mal and Wendy’s home with two gifts. One was a packet of chocolates and the other was the gift of love, which they might not be aware that they had given me but which I treasure most of all. I have decided I will buy Mal and Wendy a lovely Christmas card come Christmas, and I have also started to draw up a long list of those whose lives I will touch this Christmas, starting with you. That way I hope that I can pass on the light of this season without having to do much than let my actions show it.
For Mal and Wendy,
Who made their home mine for those few hours. Thank you