Arrival cake

A pile of chocolate brownies

It has been a weekend of mixed emotions.  Friday afternoon I was elated to set off on our weekend trip ahead of schedule: car packed, toddler fed, husband home from work on time.  When you’ve a four hour journey ahead of you it feels like every second counts.

And then my joy turned to frustration as we had ‘car trouble’.  Barely ten minutes from home it all went wrong.  Unable to move, we waited for a local garage to pick up the car, watching those saved seconds tick away.  For a while the situation remained salvageable. The tow truck arrived quickly; Jessica loved riding in ‘the van’; the mechanic was confident he could fix the car in less than an hour.  Our trip remained within reach.

Sure enough, we had only watched Nigel Slater’s Simple Cooking (even having a food programme on the garage television added to my hopefulness) before the mechanic came back: the car was fixed, he’d taken it for a run around the block, no, he couldn’t see why we couldn’t continue our journey.  Happiness!

We made it twenty yards before the car died again.  What? Why?  To our immense relief the same mechanic was right behind us, heading home for the night.  He and Jonathan pushed the car back to the garage, those twenty yards of happiness now behind us.  I’ve never met such a tenacious mechanic.  He refused to be beaten by our car, convinced he could get us on the road that night.  However, to cut a rather long evening short, we finally found ourselves, much to Jessica’s delight, back in the van, heading home to no 41, the car stuck in the garage for the weekend.

I woke with a heavy heart on Saturday.  We were supposed to be in our friends’ house in Northampton, a house that is full of light, laughter and noise.  I refuse to be beaten when things don’t go according to my plans, but I can’t change the sadness that accompanies not seeing your best friend since university who just happens to live four hours away.

The last of the blackberries


Jessica and I went for a stroll along the river, counting the boats, foraging the last of the blackberries, enjoying the autumn sunshine on our faces.  I contemplated what to do, what to eat, for the rest of the weekend, resigned to not seeing N for another couple of months.



So why am I typing this from N’s spare room bed in Northampton?  For yes, that’s where we are this Sunday morning.  Thanks to a great mechanic, who not only worked late on Friday night but came into work on Saturday for us, our car was fixed by lunchtime and, only twenty hours behind schedule, we arrived in Northampton, tired but relieved to finally make it.

Two years ago we had a similar weekend of mixed emotions.  Early on the morning of Friday 16th October we collected Jessica from her foster mum’s for the last time.  After almost six years of interviews, classes, waiting, rejection, more waiting, appeals, more waiting, misunderstandings and even more waiting, we were on the final straight to becoming a family.

Jessica October 2009

Jessica was one day shy of four months, we had known her for four days, and had only been told we had been matched with her two weeks previously.  (Oh, and our kitchen had been ripped out that week so we were living off toast and pizza).  Elation, anxiety, uncertainty, joy, frustration: you name it, we experienced it.  And again over the last two years – how can children be so talented to make us laugh and cry simultaneously?

Jessica has three celebrations a year: her birthday, her adoption day, and her arrival day. I think the latter will be the most emotional for me as I remember the tiny tot we first met two years ago today, totally dependent on us, yet already with her own personality and preferences (not sleeping in the car? not her most endearing quality!).  Today Jessica will celebrate her arrival with her parents and her godmother and her family with chocolate brownies.

And next year, please can we remember the emotions of bringing our daughter home and not re-experience them through the medium of ‘car trouble’?

Nigella’s chocolate brownie recipe can be found in How to be a Domestic Goddess


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