What’s that old saying; ‘You can’t pick your family’?
I guess, technically, that’s true. Although there are one or two people that I am happy to deselect from my family, along with some very special friends who I have chosen to be a part of it. And you know what, there are so many I have been born with that I would choose all over again if I had the choice.
Like the amazing people that I spent the weekend with and who (mostly) share my surname. Even through distance and years of separation, we could be together and the love and warmth and affection is so evident. Not to mention the laughs. Our family has a history of trauma and heartache, but we all recognise and celebrate in the company of each other. I am so utterly grateful for that.
Some of my favourite people were there. My father (still to come back to him one day) was the eldest of nine. When my mum, brother and I moved seven or so hours away from my hometown, we moved away from a lot of trauma. But we also moved away from an entire world and heritage. Although so many were already scattered across the country, and even as the anxiously shy kid I was, I have always adored my paternal family and was heartbroken when the physical distance that appeared somehow seemed to only get wider.
This is no fault of any of my aunts and uncles, though I know guilt has weighed on some of them, my father had created such a disturbance in our family that it somehow separated my brother and me from our kin. My mum moved to The Farm when my three youngest uncles were still in school. She loved her in-laws as if they were her own brothers and sisters. I don’t know why I was so surprised when the few that were able to travel some distance to attend mum’s funeral did so; after all, she inspired the same love in them as they did in her.
She would particularly be impressed and proud of my uncle whose house some of us had migrated to this past weekend. Of the most amazing, generous, big-hearted woman he married twelve years ago who pre-prepared meals for the rest of the clan due to visit. She has a similar sense of humour as my mum, along with the same levels of warmth and unconditional love. And she makes my uncle happy, which is the most important thing. My eight-year-old cousin is such a wonderful mixture of both my aunt and my beloved uncle (whom I have threatened to write up badly if he doesn’t stop picking on me, in jest of course), just with the added buzz of an Energizer Bunny. Her own heart and character are a testament to her upbringing by two of my favourite people on the planet, and each time I see her I am further amazed by the incredible human being who emerges more and more. Even down to this Easter weekend. There were three generations of cousins represented there, and the youngest was so worried that the festive mascot would not find our 16-year-old cousin and me too. So the mascot representative made sure we were covered. Yet even after the egg hunt the youngest made sure all the bounty was put together and then divided them up evenly between us, even though she had the biggest collection of loot.
As the second eldest of the grandkids/nieces and nephews, it is somehow surreal to have been there amongst the adults (I really wanted to put that word in quotation marks). But as my youngest uncle is only nine years older than me, I guess it also feels normal. Particularly as my ideal ‘chosen dad’ was there, and my wonderfully motherly eldest aunt, or my youngest aunt whom my mum was particularly fond of and watchful over. Three of my father’s siblings that I am completely blessed and grateful that time has let me get to know. This painfully shy, yet loving, kid has changed by way of not being scared to seek those bonds she had lost and continues to require.
I had not intended this blog spot to be one of soul-searching, mushy, loving blog posts and years of gratitude, but it appears the things that have created such phenomenal change in my life are such things, people or events that inspire and require such a halo of reminiscence and adoration. Each visit to my uncle’s coast house is one of absolute joy, an unconditional love and understanding of feeling at home. It helps that I adore them so much, but they are also the ‘missing link’ between me and my paternal family. It is a big deal for me to feel so completely at home, and to have these people that know what they mean in my life and not shy away from such a pedestal but to willingly stand upon it, I have no words.
Besides, how many people can say their cousin comes running outside to hug them on arrival, barely out of the car? Me.