One evening, we went to my Dad's sister for dinner, and she had invited all of the family who were available. We went a little early and had a couple hours to talk with her alone. This was a great moment. She has had an interesting life, with interesting decisions, and it was wonderful to sit there as adults and hear the stories. Her husband came home, and the conversation switched back and forth between our trip, and South African politics.
After visiting the museums, and driving around the more rural areas, it was very interesting to talk to my family about their first-hand experiences living through this monumental change.
We sat down to dinner after my Dad's brother, wife, and daughter arrived. The meal was as delicious as I expected.
You may remember me talking about my Dad's siblings before, because when I went to Toronto, it was to be with the oldest daughter of each sibling.
It was a wonderful evening, full of family, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to share it with Eric. It was so good to see everyone.
Remember I talked about that bed & breakfast and how much we didn't like it?
Well, when I told my maternal aunt and her husband, they insisted we get out early and spend our last nights with them. So we moved back to the house in Oaklands.
When my family moved to Johannesburg, when I was in high school, we lived within walking distance of my aunt and uncle. This is about the time when things went bad in my parent's marriage, and so we spent a lot of time at my aunt and uncle's house. This is what my afternoon's used to look like when I was in high school.
Me, my mom, and aunt, all hanging out with tea in the living room. Usually the two small girls would be napping around this time (now one of them is married!). My aunt and uncle were like second parents to me. When my parents went on vacation, we would stay with my aunt and uncle. The longest of these stays was six weeks, and we actually changed schools for that period of time. My aunt is also a teacher, and there was no way she was going to be driving us to Aloe Ridge each day, so we went to her school for those six weeks.
My cousins were very young when I moved to America, and I don't think they have a consciousness of me in their lives as solidly as they are in mine. Its strange to be in this house, which is the closest remnant to "home" for me, and realize that they have a whole growing-up with a different consciousness of this house as home.
I feel at ease with my aunt and uncle as you do with your parents. I know they are there for me as my parents would be - whether we talk every week or not.
Its reassuring to know that you have these types of real relationships or connections with your family. Keep in mind, that for me there is a great amount of actual land distance between me and most of my family (actually all of my family, my brother in Brooklyn is the closest), so its not easy to "feel" that connection. You have to just know that its there.
Going on this trip was a reminder, a renewal, that I'm not alone. That there are these people all over the world who I care about, and who care about me.
I feel a lot of regret that my life has not been in a space that would free me to be more present in their lives. It's another reason that I am grateful for where I am now, because I don't feel that heavy pinned-down feeling anymore. I have promised myself that I will do whatever I can to not let that huge lapse happen again.
In fact, the daughters of my cousin in Toronto have their batmitzvah this month. Her parents (my paternal aunt and uncle) are going to fly in for the occasion. Toronto is 1.5 hrs away from DC. I took time off work, I used some miles, and I'm going to be there!
I miss my family a lot. It is a sadness for me that I cannot stop over for Friday dinner, or go to tea, or have them over to my home. That my Dad can't come over and help build some furniture, and my Mom give us advise in the garden. Even if I wanted to make a move to be closer, someone would always not be - Sydney, Green Valley, Johannesburg, Brooklyn, Toronto, Cape Town - they are too far apart!
On the bright side. My new home is very close to a LARGE international airport (IAD), I have a wonderful guest room (hint, hint), I have SO MANY frickin airline miles, and a job that allows me to save up money and time to be able to make a plan to be with my family more.
...and I plan to do it!