Life has worked out so that I do not have a strong bond or connection with many members of my extended family. Due to a confluence of different factors, we don’t talk or even correspond with each other on a regular basis. A few notes are passed now and then via Facebook, but that is about it.
Every time Rachel, Siaya and I head home to see grandma and grandpa, I think to myself how nice it would be to become reacquainted with my cousins, aunt and uncles. It would also do Siaya some good to be introduced to family members that she has never met. However, due to limited time and vast distances separating them from my parents, it never happens. It is a pity because as kids my brother and I spent a fair amount of time bonding with both sides of the family.
Our summers were spent visiting my mother’s family on my grandparents’ farm in Alberta. My brother and I had a ball dismantling old tractors, making tree forts, feeding farm animals, stressing out farm animals (see Track 28), chasing tractors, climbing bales of hay, collecting grasshoppers, racing through fields of wheat, and every now and then causing some real trouble.
I can remember a time when we almost lost one of our twin cousins in my grandmother’s garden. It was evening and the farm was water logged from a late afternoon downpour that had just let up. My brother, our twin cousins, who were a few years younger than me, and I were out exploring the farm, looking for any damage that the storm might have caused. As we walked past the garden my brother stepped into the edge and his whole foot was instantly consumed in thick mud. The rain had fallen so hard that the garden was transformed into a thick, black pudding of earth. My brother must have been slightly panicked as the mud inched over his boot top. I, on the other hand, saw this misstep as the opportunity for fun. As he tried to pull himself free without losing his boot in the thick muck, I gave him a little shove. A slight tap was all it took to send him ass first into the garden. I giggled and jumped into the mud after him. I figured he was going to throw me in anyways so I might as well beat him to the punch. Literally.
Our cousins stood at the edge of the garden laughing at us as we splashed muck everywhere. It didn’t take much coaxing for both of them to join us for a little frolic in the mud. Actually, one of our cousins only ventured into the garden a few steps. Oddly enough he hated getting dirty. Our other cousin was a little more trusting and adventurous and stepped out a little further into the black abyss.
My brother and I had only sunk into the earthy porridge a little past our knees. Our cousin, on the other hand, was quite a bit shorter than us and was almost immediately engulfed in the black muck. He looked like a legless Weeble Wobble (Remember those toys?) swaying, no flailing, in the pool of wet soil. His squeals of joy soon turned to tears of fear as he tried desperately to escape from the cement like grips of the thick mud. My brother and I started to panic. Not so much out of concern for the safety of our cousin, but because of the backlash that would result in our grandmother or aunt hearing his screams of terror.
My brother and I worked quickly to yank him out of the muck. We managed to calm him down a little as we tugged and struggled to get him free. By the time we pulled him to the embankment that bordered the garden he was giggling furiously. For some reason the fact that the garden had just eaten both of his boots was the funniest thing that had ever happened to him. My brother and I didn’t see the humor in the situation because we knew there was going to be hell to pay.
We were right.
My brother and I never got into that kind of trouble when we visited my relatives in the States. Mind you, my grandparents’ condo in Florida didn’t provide the same opportunities for mischief as did my other grandparents’ farm. There is only so much trouble you can get into when you are constantly surrounded by senior citizens. Don’t get me wrong, my brother and I loved hanging out by the pool or playing billiards in their community center, we just didn’t get into the same amount of trouble.
Visiting my aunt, uncle and three cousins in New Jersey was equally as fun, but our weekends there were all about enjoying their state of the art entertainment system, playing on my cousin’s computer, making videos with his VHS recorder or attending weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or other holiday celebrations. My Aunt and Uncle’s house was usually full of relatives and exploding with life and chaos. I was always in awe with how many people would come and go throughout the days and nights.
Although a few afternoons were spent playing running bases or hopping into piles of leaves in their backyard, most of the time we were indoors. My uncle always had the newest gadgets and electronics with which we were free to play. This meant we were usually much more sedate and less likely to get into trouble. I’m not saying that we didn’t get into trouble. Three boys left to their own devices can always find some way to cause a ruckus. I just can’t recall ever getting yelled at. (This might have something to do with the fact that my cousin and I blamed everything on my brother.)
Looking back on the times spent with my relatives, I find it interesting how opposite my parents’ families were/are. Understanding these differences gives me more insight into my own family. I hope that going back to see my parents once a year will give Siaya the same understanding of her background.
We Are the Champions, by Queen, was a song to which my cousin, brother and I made a lip-sync video during one of our visits to their home. When I think about the countless videos and movies that the three of us made, I often get nostalgic for the relationships that I seem to have let slip by the wayside.
For many reasons my extended family has become something of the past – a memory. The only way to describe this happening is as a loss. For no matter who we have grown to become, my family is and always will be at the core of my foundation. There is no denying that all members of my family had a profound impact on the man I have become. I think it is time now for me to show them who that person is and learn the same about them.
So, if any of my cousins are reading this post, I look forward to speaking with you soon. And if none of them are, I still look forward to speaking with you soon.
We Are The Champions youtube link