So... I'm doing it.
I am flying my whole family to the other end of New Zealand to - hopefully - spend some time with my parents, my brothers and their children.
This may not sound like a huge deal, but I haven't seen my parents in 5yrs, or 3 of my brothers since the day I left home, 17yrs ago.
So we booked the flights and accomodation, and then I rang my mum to tell her we were coming. She sounded surprised, but not horrified, which I took as a good sign. I rang her again a few days later, and tried to get some idea of how much access we were likely to get to them all, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that she is keen to see us!
Now, before you get all excited and assume the welcome mat is out and all is forgiven... what that actually means (as far as I know so far) is that we aren't staying with them, we can't eat or drink with them - although Mum did say that they could cook for us, but just not eat with us - we can't go to church with them, and I'm not sure yet if any of my brothers will meet us. BUT, and this is a very big but, we will be allowed inside my parents house. I have not been inside my parents home since I left. In fact, the last time I went to their home, with my brand-new fiancee to tell them we were getting married, my dad ordered us off the property.
I'm hoping... what am I hoping? That depends on whether I'm feeling optimistic or pessimistic.
In my wildest dreams, I see my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews all gathered at my parents' house, welcoming us with hugs and then all going inside to talk and laugh and cry and cook and eat (seperately - I'm not completely irrational!) and play music together for hours. Then 2 days later we come back to my parents house again, they welcome us in and my kids get to spend hours with their grandparents. We get to go out with them, and see the sights of their home-town. My parents come to the house we are renting and spend time with us there. We go to at least one of my brother's homes and the kids play with their cousins... and none of this is awkward, nothing gets said about the things that divide us and will continue to divide us for the rest of our lives, it is all easy, loving and fun.
In my nightmares, we arrive at my parents' house, they let us in and make awkward conversation for half an hour, while my kids fight and break things, then my husband and my dad almost get into a fight about how stupid their rules are, and we leave. None of my brothers want to see us. Two days later we all try again, it goes a little better, the kids don't fight quite as much, we get to stay for an hour this time, and then we leave. The next day we go out to a park together, my parents complain that I am wearing men's clothing (jeans) and couldn't I have made an effort, and maybe grown my hair longer, and worn a scarf? I retaliate by asking how come cell phones and computers (two things that were so evil we weren't even allowed to touch them) are now absolutely fine and acceptable, and they hit back, asking if I don't care that my children are corrupted and probably bound for hell because I am bringing them up in 'the world'? I yell at them, we leave, and I cry a lot. We wonder why we wasted so much money on getting our hearts broken, when we could have gone to Fiji for a week instead.
The reality is probably going to be somewhere between the two... hopefully closer to the 'wildest dreams' scenario than the nightmare! However well it goes, it will be hard, and stressful and heartbreaking.
Is the welcome mat out? Well... I think I can see a corner of it.