Near Yellow Mountain

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

theory of "relativity"

One of the downsides of ex-pat life was that my family did not get to spend much time with our US relatives during the decade we went “missing”. I have five siblings – my wife has eight. Our cousins, nieces and nephews while not innumerable almost qualify as a separate census category. Now that we are back in the US, any opportunity to see a large contingent of relatives is embraced.

Last weekend, one of my nieces got married in rural Maine. For the first time since my mother left this world for her eternal reward while we were living in Shanghai, I saw all of my brothers and sisters at the same time. As they say these days, the weekend was – “good stuff”.  I was the only one of us born in the second half of the baby boom generation which is a sobering thought. We may be taking glucosamine and having colonoscopies now but get-togethers still have the same basic feel they have had for a few decades. Generally speaking we all tend to fall into the same familial roles we had as kids. I may be generalizing from a small sample but the same thing seems to happen when my wife gets together with her brothers and sisters.

In addition to getting to spend time with my siblings, I also got to see many nieces and nephews and an old friend of the mother of the bride that my wife and I had not seen since people tuned in to Magnum PI on Thursday nights and “the Great Communicator” was living in the White House.
A random sampling of “the cousins”. Used without permission. Nobody signed a release and there is more than one lawyer in the group.
The picture above includes a minority of cousins on my side of the family so when my two daughters speak about “having cousins” they know what they are talking about. My elder daughter is front and center next to the bride. Unfortunately my younger daughter was unable to make the trip from LA to Maine since it was midterm week at USC (Go Trojans!) and spending 20+ hours in transit for a weekend seemed excessive.  A large inventory of frequent flyer miles (aka "free travel") doesn’t solve the time problem.

Over the years, missing family gatherings was a hot button for both of my kids but they understood that the benefits of their ex-pat life came at a price. I can’t speak for them but my guess is if they had it to do over they would not change how they grew up.
Although a  steady stream a photos uploaded to Facebook all weekend long gave my youngest and other relatives who could not make the trip a sense of what was going on; it is a very weak substitute for getting to interact live with people who are part of your history but tend to get pushed to the back of your mind for extended periods in the busy, modern world.   

As much fun as it is to spend time with people you haven’t seen in years, it is also fun to step back and watch the proceedings – sort of like a live “family movie”.
As suddenly as we all came together, the wedding and reception were over. In less the 48 hours, most people came and went. As our time together waned, there was much speculation over which cousin would provide the next opportunity for another wedding get – together.