LAURA CARTLEDGE: A family road trip is a great pointer for life

My family is a compact one. That is, in terms of size, not geography.

That is, in terms of size, not geography.

If I count the tree from my grandad at the top to my cousins at the sides, I get 18 members.

Which is including both branches.

Whereas if I count the miles that separate us, the 5,439 from home to my uncle in LA makes it quite a different story.

I know it is not an isolated story, many families are dotted across the globe, but it helps to explain why this weekend was so special.

First of all it was a road trip – and I wasn’t driving.

Secondly, it meant some time with my partner which wasn’t just limited to a glass of squash in between gardening tasks.

And thirdly, I think, we managed an impressive amount in a very short time.

It began with my parents picking us up and heading to Oxford to stay with my aunt.

Here we managed to Skype the USA contingent and put the world to rights like we usually do. By which I mean we spoke about Trump’s hair and the cricket.

The next day, my aunt hopped aboard as we travelled further north.

Despite the wandering nature of the extended Cartledge clan, there’s no doubt our roots are in Nottingham.

Even our name is reported to stem from there and the ledges of castle moats where carts used to stop. I suppose, in modern-day terms, I would be Laura Carpark.

But anyway. A little village here houses my grandad, uncle, aunt and cousin which made ticking that tiny family list a bit more successful.

And it brings me to this house you see here.

A house my grandad built, with help from his sons – including my dad – more than 40 years ago.

A house that still gives me a precious link to my nan, from the flowers in the garden to the seemingly endless stream of fabric and crafty things which are still being passed to me.

This trip also saw me gain two bedside lamps and an umbrella. Oh, and a bag of rhubarb and a jar of lemon curd.

But the most important thing I got, and not just because it didn’t take up any room in the burgeoning boot, was a great sense of contentment.

It soothed the guilt I, along with many others, feel about not being in touch enough.

An understanding that life’s demands and desires might not always tally up together.

If I could, I would have every Sunday lunch on a magical table which crosses the continents.

But what I need to remind myself is that the time apart doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I completely and utterly appreciated the time we have together.

And that when we manage it, we come together like a well-loved jigsaw.

It might have a rainbow of pieces, and had some new ones snuck in the box over time, but it works.