Monday, February 9, 2015

love runs through

This past week was filled with the joy of reunion and of meeting loved ones for the first time. With sweetness there is always a little sadness, though, that comes with the knowledge that we must once again part from these same loved ones, at least for awhile.

My husband was born in England, and moved to Canada with his family when he was seven. He's had a few visits back to see his extended family there, and I have met a few relatives who have travelled here, but one of his aunts made her first trip to Canada this past week, with her daughter and two grandchildren. This aunt, my children's great aunt, has been a part of our life through the cards she sends to each of our children on their birthdays, but this was our first time meeting her face-to-face.

I shed tears off and on that first evening, as I watched my tall, handsome husband with his arm around his tiny aunt. I thought of the pain she must have felt to have her young nephews move so far away, to see her own children lose their cousins to the distance between England and Canada. I have seen my husband with his other English aunt, dear Daidy, and love to see his face alight with the love that women pour over their sons and nephews. He is different in their presence, and I see the little boy he must have been then (complete with an adorable English accent, which he promptly lost to "fit in" with his Canadian school mates). I also see those pieces of him that don't always seem to fit with his dad's family falling into place and making sense with these relatives from his mother's side of the family.

It was beautiful to see resemblances I hadn't known were there. Violet's colouring is different from her great aunt's, but I saw a ripple of similarity in the placement of their features on their faces. Having seen photos of my husband's grandmother, with whom I've shared many a letter over the years, I feel like I have met a part of her by meeting her eldest daughter (who resembles her greatly).

Margot cuddled up with her aunt to read a story brought all the way from England, and the kids all performed songs with fiddles, banjos, voices, and drums. The house felt crowded and cosy, warm and wonderful, filled for once with my husband's family instead of mine. 

We spent a snowy day sliding, sipping hot chocolate by a camp fire, and warming tiny hands. My sisters-in-law and cousin-in-law and I passed children around, shared snacks, filled cups, brushed snow off of rosy cheeks, and took care of each other's babies the way women are meant to do. There doesn't seem to be a word to describe that feeling, when your heart swells, your throat tightens, you wish you had infinite time together, and you feel joyful all at the same time.



Then last evening, the reunion was complete when my mother-in-law and her sister joined us for dinner. As my husband put the children to bed, these two sisters who live so far apart started singing songs they learned as children, full with harmony, eye contact, forgotten words remembered, and renewed grief at the memory of the father that taught them to sing. My husband opened our daughters' bedroom door so they could listen in on those warm voices singing songs that he sings to them  at bedtime. 

Love runs through families in these ways: stories shared, songs remembered, the glint of an eye or the quirk of a smile. Hands that mimic the gestures of others, the tilt of a head, and the joy of coming together after years apart.