We’re delighted to bring you the continuing adventures of Life & The Wadhams, featuring the younger members of the family. Not yet met the Wadhams? Read the background on My Weekly’s best-loved family, then come back and enjoy the next generation’s adventures as Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark settles into family life with wife Natalie and toddler son William. Now living in a house with attached annexe for Natalie’s grandmother Julia, they’ve just welcomed twin daughters Lyra and Lottie into their family.
“All set!” Alex Clark turned his neck to look at his two infant daughters in their matching car seats and his toddler son in his more grown-up booster seat, then ducked his head as he faced the front again to hide the sudden sheen of tears in his eyes.
He was so proud of his little family. And to think he’d very nearly missed out on it all. If he’d gone off on his world travels without Natalie, she would probably have met someone else by the time he came back.
How wise his grandpa Mike Wadham had been in his words of advice then. Even though the old man was already suffering the beginnings of dementia, he’d known the importance of matters of the heart.
And now Alex was a husband, a father of three, a householder – with a massive mortgage and multiple responsibilities! So different from the carefree boy with the backpack who’d set off for adventure.
Well this was his biggest adventure of all – and he was enjoying every minute of it.
He turned on the car engine, and smiled as Natalie pulled down the window visor to make a last-minute adjustment to her lipstick. She looked so beautiful in her long floral dress, her dark hair caught up in a loose bun with a sparkling clasp.
She’d debated wearing a fascinator, but in the end decided that it wasn’t necessary.
“It’s not as if we’re going to a church,” she’d said.
Her grandmother Julia had sniffed loudly and disapprovingly at that. It had been her idea to mark the babies’ arrival with a ceremony, but she’d envisaged a religious ceremony at her local parish with all the congregation looking on in envy as she took her place as guest of honour at her great-grandchildren’s baptism.
A naming ceremony in the function room of the local hotel had not been at all what she had in mind, but she’d had to grin and bear it. At least she’d been allowed to invite some friends – and she’d taken the opportunity to ask Father Edward along.
Julia was not a woman to give in easily – she had plans…
“Oh, Natalie, they all look so gorgeous!” Keisha rushed to give her friend a hug as she carried three month old Lyra and Lottie into the hall. The babies wore matching white dresses in broderie anglais, and each had a headband over her strawberry-blonde curls, Lyra’s in pink and Lottie’s in lilac.
Clutching his daddy’s hand tightly, William followed behind, looking very smart and grownup in black jeans and a pale blue polo neck, his dark-blond hair smoothed down with a touch of hair gel.
“Oh don’t they all look sweet,” Polly Wadham gushed at the table she was sharing with Julia. As fellow great-grandparents, the women were invariable thrown together at family events, but apart from their age they had little in common. Sweet, sensible, loving Polly never interfered in her children and grandchildren’s live. Julia made a career out of it!
“Jeans and a T-shirt, thank goodness we’re not in church.” Julia snorted her disapproval.
Twenty-one-year old Jennifer, passing on her way to ensure all the last-minute details of the ceremony were in order, overheard her.
“I suppose you’d have dressed him as little Lord Faunterloy in velvet pantaloons and a frilly blouse,” she said cheekily. Her grandmother gave her a warning look, and she shrugged and went on her way. As the event organiser and all-important guardian to her two little nieces, she had no time to waste on arguing with Julia.
“I think all the children look very smart,” Father Edward said benignly. “Really, they are a credit to their parents. And to you of course, Julia,” he added hurriedly, mindful of the beneficence of his most loyal, most taxing parishioner.
The loud chatter around the room died to a low murmur then quietened completely as Jennifer called the room to attention. She had all the confidence and charm needed to command an audience, and her mother Pinky often wondered if she’d missed a trick by not training as a teacher or an actor. But Jennifer loved old people, and geriatric nursing was her goal.
For now, though, she was thoroughly invested in the future generation, in the shape of her nephew and nieces, as she introduced the humanist celebrant who was to perform the naming ceremony.
Marian Jones was the same woman who’d performed Alex and Natalie’s wedding service, and she had an easy warm manner as she began her spiel, carrying the Wadhams and Clark clan and their friends along smiling and nodding along with her as she recounted the blessings the children had brought, exhorted their parents to cherish and nurture them, and encouraged their guardians – Keisha and Robbie for William; Jennifer for Lyra and Lottie – to play an active role in their upbringing.
Then Pinky, Alex’s mother, stood up, to thanks Alex and Natalie for bringing such joy into their family, and to talk about her grandchildren’s names.
“William means protector,” she said. “And already we can see how caring William is to his little sisters…”
“It also means strong-willed,” Jim, the boy’s grandfather, whispered to Natalie’s mum Carol, who had flown over from Spain especially, and positioned herself miles away from her ex-husband Eric, who was seated near Julia. She snorted, and Julia gave her a disapproving look from across the room.
“Lyra is from the Greek word for harp,” Pinky went on. “Let’s hope she is musical.” Loud squeals from the baby, red-faced in Jennifer’s arms, told the guests that little Lyra might need some singing lessons to grow into her name.
“And Charlotte means freewoman,” Pinky continued, suppressing a grin as Lottie wriggled about in her mother’s arms, in obvious search of escape.
There was a break in the proceedings while Lyra was taken off for a necessary nappy change, and Father Edward used the opportunity to excuse himself for five minutes, too.
Polly smiled at Julia. “Such lovely names they’ve given the children.”
“Lyra is a tad … pagan,” Julia opined. “I don’t know why they couldn’t have found her a good Christian name, like the other two.” She shuddered theatrically. “Thank goodness Father Edward is here to lend some dignity to the occasion. In fact, I’m going to ask him,” she lowered her voice conspiratorially, “to give the children a quick blessing after all this hooha is over.”
“Julia! You can’t!” Polly was truly shocked. Though a believer herself, who had had her own children baptised, she would never dream of going against a child’s parents’ wishes in the important matter of faith.
“Why ever not?” Julia asked. “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart won’t grieve over. Isn’t that right, Father Edward?” she asked as the cleric returned to the table.
“That depends,” Father Edward said, “on the context.”
Polly was fuming, but had to keep her thoughts to herself as Natalie returned with Lyra and the ceremony proceeded with Keisha reading a poem that she had written herself about the joys of parenthood. It was very funny, but Polly couldn’t laugh. What on earth was Julia thinking about? She’d have to warn Alex and Natalie.
The rest of the ceremony went smoothly and toasts were handed out. The guests laughed and chatted as Alex and Natalie toured the room with the babies. William had disappeared under a table with his boon companions Ruby and Kayla, and refused to come out to be admired.
“Such a naughty boy,” Julia said to Father Edward.
“He maybe needs a dose of the Holy Spirit,” Father Edward joked, then looked surprised as Julia gripped his hand.
“Oh he does, Father, and so do the little girls. I thought perhaps you could give them a quick blessing, on the quiet, like, when there is an opportunity.” She glanced furtively around.
Polly made to speak, but Father Edward was quicker.
“No, Julia, I could not,” he said firmly, “not without their parents’ permission. I know you mean well,” he added, touched by Julia’s crestfallen expression. “But it would not be right.”
Polly breathed a sigh of relief and turned to her grandson and his family as they reached the table. Thank goodness she would not have to say anything to them about Julia’s underhand scheme.
But they surprised her!
“Father Edward,” Alex looked slightly abashed. “We’ve been talking and… as you’re here, we wondered…”
“It’s a bit cheeky of us, I know,” Natalie finished as her husband faltered. “But we’d be honoured if you would give William, Lyra and Lottie a public blessing.
“I would be delighted,” Father Edward said. “But may I ask, what prompted you to ask?”
Natalie looked at Julia and smiled. “We want everyone in the family to feel fully invested in our happiness. And that means that they should be happy, too. And I know it would make Gran happy.”
“And let’s face it,” Alex said, “We’re going to need help from all sources, earthly and divine, if we’ve any chance of keeping William on the straight and narrow!” He looked fondly at his son as he tore around the room chased by Kayla loudly demanding back the toy dog he’d stolen from her.
Julia smiled benignly. “Oh boys will be boys,” she said, to the astonishment of her audience. “Isn’t that right, Polly?”
No-one could be more saintly than Julia when she got her own way!
Join us next month for more adventures with the Wadhams and Clark clan.