Dinner-time, end of May. I place a beautiful red box on the table tied up with a bow. A present for everyone.
The kids come into the kitchen and take a seat. “What’s this Mum?” they ask. “Is it a box of chocolates?”
But Frankie looks over at Clare: “Where have I seen a box on the dinner table before?! Clare, I think we’ve seen a few scenes like this before… Is it possible?!”
I try to look serious. “No, it’s not chocolates. It’s a Christmas present:”
“Christmas?”. Now curiosity is raging.
“Sara will be the one who has the right to open it because she’s the only one who never opened a box like this before…”
“Right, that’s it!” Frankie shouts out to Clare. Clare bursts out laughing and crying at the same time. Meanwhile Sara opens the box and takes out a photograph that she can’t quite make out. Then the shrieks around the table are immense with everyone talking and laughing at the same time and in two seconds the photograph is being handed round.
“Sara, that’s not a normal photograph, it’s an ultrasound scan”, Clare explains as she wipes the tears from her eyes. “Sara, were going to have another brother or sister!”
Niall and I smile happily. The Lord sent us this special surprise and there’s no hiding the joy! For the last fifteen years our children have been arriving on schedule every two years. No babies arrived these last five years, and so, now at the age of 46 and having had surgery on my breast and my thyroid gland removed, I was convinced that I would have no more babies. How wrong I was!
At school, Anthony and Lucia waste no time spreading the news and the bets on whether it would be a girl or a boy are laid. At University, where Niall works and at the school where I teach, first there are looks of astonishment at my grey hair, and then congratulations. At the Salesian college, David’s teachers hurry over to congratulate him. At nursery school a little girl asks Sara: “Won’t you give me your brother when he’s born? You already have so many and I have none!”. At my doctor’s appointment in the maternity ward in Aveiro, a nurse looks me over carefully and then says, “don’t I recognize you from somewhere? ” “Yes you do”, I say smiling, “from here”.
Our baby is only twelve weeks old and is already changing the world. Just to think how much joy a baby can spread about! At home, he, or she, is the joy of everyone as we have fun dreaming about the day we can hold our baby in our arms.
“I’ve been thinking…”, I said one day with a little smirk on my face and looking round at my six children and the two adolescents who are still living with us for the time being, “Now that we bought new tents for the Families of Cana camp, what do you think about us putting up one of them in the garden for good? The strongest one of course, now that we’ve so little space inside the house…”
Everyone laughed at the thought. We don’t need a tent because we have a family rule: for every baby that arrives, we throw out a piece of furniture. We can do without furniture, but there’s always space for one more child!
“Francisco, has it occurred to you that you’re going to have a twenty-year age difference in relation to your new brother or sister?”, I ask. He nods, still hardly believing all this. Then I add one final detail to the surprise. “You and Clare, since you’ve both already made your Confirmation, will be the Godparents”.
And now, dear friends, join us in joy and most of all pray for us, so that this pregnancy goes the full term until at the end it brings this baby that we want so much!” Amen!