Friday, August 22, 2014

The Togetherness Factor

I grew up in a small family, just my parents, an older brother and I. Just before I left for America, my baby brother was born. Since there is quite an age difference between us, each of us felt like only children. I got Dad  to take me places I wanted to go for over twelve years before the baby took over everyone's attention. Yes, we had a big extended family, but we didn't spend much time with them.

My son Scott married into a very close knit family.

In this recent picture, his wife, daughter and immediate family decided to come together on vacation to Oregon. This is the extended family's first visit to these parts.

 First, they all had to agree right up front on the need for such trip, the purpose of it, the destinations, and the arrangements, such as where to stop to spend the night, etc,,,

I have known them for a long time, a very close-knitted group, supportive and generous with each other. The reason for the trip: dropping my/our grandchild off at Reed College in Portland. Hence the reason for them to stop over on the Southern Oregon Coast to visit with us, the in-laws. My son Scott, a teacher, was not on this trip, as his school calendar had already started.

Our grandchild has been raised by the entire family.

Raising children with the help of a large family becomes everybody's responsibility and everybody's joy. Uncles and aunts contribute their time, energy and resources in making sure the new generation is well supported, well guided, well equipped to face the larger world facing them. My grandchild is lucky to have been born among such caring individuals who many times put aside their own needs and wants to join her and become her biggest supporters. At every activity she has been involved in, she's had a loving audience there, cheering for her, congratulating her, joyful with her. And so, as she goes off to college, the family too will stop by the famous campus, visit the halls, inspect the living quarters.

Most importantly, she'll learn through example, will internalize how and what a family does, and will look forward to a union in her future that is this fulfilling and this rewarding.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Authentic Self.

When do we ever just act on our instincts, not caring to please and be accommodating, discarding others' expectations, jumping into situations with joy and thrill and self interest? Do we do this only as children and by the time we've grown up we have internalized bibles of do's and don'ts to serve us well in most situations? How invested in our public image do we become? What would the real you look like, act like, if your private and public self were one and the same?

This particular morning, we planned  to go take a walk on the beach, in our sweats, walking shoes, sun hats. On a whim, my husband drove an additional twenty miles before finding a place to walk that was new to us. (Somehow, finding a new place to walk is our version of fun these days.)

Before noon, tired and hungry, we saw a country fair sign advertising free-entry for seniors,  and talked ourselves into dropping by. I looked at myself in the car visor mirror, and accepted the fact that dirty and sweaty was not going to change our experience much. Usually, I'm quite particular on how presentable I am. Not this day. We were too far from home, and the chances of running into anyone we knew were slim.

As we sat at this outdoor stand, waiting for our burgers, I noticed the rest of the audience.
We do feel anonymous in a big crowd, I thought. What if that lady's boss from the bank, for instance, would see her today in this T-shirt?

Within seconds, we ran into a couple we knew who joined us right there at the burger counter. Somehow this much exposure of  my authentic self ended up giving me indigestion.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why Blog?

(Grandson Nico with his dad Jason on a hike.)

We blog, we take and post pictures here and there, most obviously to keep a record of our lives for posterity. As I look back at my life, I wish I had many more pictures, many more accounts of incidents that in retrospect I seem to have lost in the caves of my memory.
This need to record, take pictures, share moments that continually define our existence is very strong with most of us, even for those who are not afraid they may forget.

Do we actually observe, and capture the moments that define us?

In these moments that seem important, do we wholeheartedly record everything, or are we constantly curating our lives now that instant messaging and instant pictures allow us to keep the best of our moments tucked away in a gallery of pictures, a storehouse of observations we choose to keep?

Perhaps it is not recording that we do.

After all, every time we sit to write, or point a camera, we are removing ourselves from the situation, becoming observers, not actors. How can we extrapolate meaning if we haven't spent time with the situation?

Aren't we altering the situation when we ask people to pose? What about that camera pointing at us, by a smiling, loving person, don't we want to please them and sit up straight and tall, flashing a big smile, wiping out any doubt that life is sure grand?

Notice how irritated we can become when a "candid" picture shows up in our cache!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All those old times...

I've always felt that my life was fluid, not because of anything I did or wished, but just how circumstances worked in my life, allowed me to move across continents, grow in different settings and  attract different people who could and became friends for a while.

However, I do miss all those childhood friends and relatives left behind when I moved to America. I tried to stay in touch for a while; but after a few years, it was hard to talk about things we no longer shared.

Lately, this idea that I've not maintained life-long friends bothers me. Something is lacking when your closest friend is also your spouse. Oh, I don't mean there is anything wrong with it. But, your history together may not include all those occasions in childhood that formed the way you grew up.

I remember how it felt the first few months in a new country, trying to start or respond to an inquiry from someone in a language I could hardly understand, feeling that people avoided you on purpose, feeling you were making all the right moves and yet...
Such experiences cannot be shared with a spouse who didn't know you then; worse, never had to live in a foreign country and has no idea how hard it is to communicate in a new language.

We can't talk much about our childhood,  those pesky neighbors, those difficult classes in high school. Not having a life-long friend limits your conversations to politics, weather, and current events.

Yet, those stories about old times get better and better when they are retold to a trusted old friend.