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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Looking back.


We're chugging along, Hubby and I, looking back more often than looking forward. Our conversations tend to go here and there, but mostly to some memory in the past, our shared past of fifty years, and our individual pasts before we met.

Recently, we had a celebration with his relatives, a brother, and a half sister, and scenes of their shared childhood kept popping up in the conversations. Things Hubby remembered did happen to involve one or the other sibling. Each then begins to add or subtract details, sometimes between moaning resentments dropped in to set the record straight.

You do remember that I paid for that car I smashed, Hubby says. No, you couldn't have paid for it, his brother declares. Of course I did; I had two jobs in my junior year and I saved every nickel and dime to buy that car. You, referring to his sister, you never had to pay for anything; Dad just bought you the lessons you wanted, the car you dreamed about.

The three of them talk about some slight the other committed and the conversation goes to another year, another decade.

As scenes were shared and re-created, detail were added to set the record straight on various improper times one or the other listed to make a point, or to correct the recollection. The rest of us, spouses who might never have met if not for the people doing the reminiscing, we just drank our iced teas or wines, and smiled.

Now, now, wasn't it nice you had each other through tick and thin, one of us might attempt to add a cold ice cube of levity to the muddle.


I don't have family or friends from childhood around me. The last time I spoke face to face with my brothers was fifteen years ago. We've moved a few times, changed careers, got divorced, married, remarried, retired, and otherwise remained connected only because the new phones are so much better at Christmas greetings than those old air mail letters that took weeks to get anywhere.

The last time I saw any blood relative of mine, excluding my children, was three years ago at a cousin's wedding. But even these were not people I knew before coming to America. And besides, cousins are not the same as the folks who might remember every detail of your childhood, even the color of that shirt you wore when you angrily killed that rooster that was bothering you as you played hide and seek in the backyard of some relative and could not succeed in shoeing that rooster away.

My husband's family moved about often; but the two brothers managed to keep up with each other even after they left home. As they recount this or that, I marvel at how much they remember, their first day of school, first fight or bloody nose, first stirrings of homesickness. They can name places and people and dates with no hesitancy. As they speak,  they help each other reconstruct, make sense of blurred occurrences, stabilize the importance of the feelings they remember with each scene.

I envy them the treasure trove of shared memories.
I envy their comfort.

And I long even more for the losses I feel, of family and companions, uprooting losses that have stayed with me. Losses that had names; and those that just floated by now and then, as I watched a movie, heard a phrase, tasted a food that brought back those lost years.

As waves of refugees cross continents, embrace new languages and customs, I'm reminded of my journey, easy compared to the one they are taking. I can see their future, and their struggles, and their looking back wanting what they left behind. They will never be able to reconcile these losses. They will concentrate on their daily prayers of gratitude that their lives were spared, and their children's lives have been blessed with new beginnings.

May they grow strong and brave; may they have the courage to write about their losses as they embrace their new challenges.

17 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

I really appreciated this post. Especially your (very realistic and pragmatic) perspective behind it. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Lisa said...

makes me want to blog again rosaria

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a profoundly moving post, Rosaria! For those of us who have had the comfort of our roots and immediate families nearby all our lives, it is all too easy to take this comfort of an uninterrupted personal history for granted. Your experience of loss of that continuity is, at once singular and also shared by so many others who have begun life anew far from where they started. Thanks for the poignant reminder of just how precious the past -- as well as the present -- can be.

joeh said...

Excellent heart felt post.

When my brother and I get together we also talk of old times, but we make a lot of stuff up.

Can't believe he killed a rooster.

yaya said...

Very moving post. It brought to mind my Grandparents who left Greece and never saw their parents again. Brothers and sisters immigrated and then they all lived in the same area but I would find it hard to never see my folks or to go to a place that I didn't speak the language and somehow forge out a living and raise a family. You would understand that better than I. I'm close to my siblings and it's interesting to hear them recount moments that we spent together, yet we all have a different perspective or memory of it. One year I asked everyone to write one Christmas memory and email it to me. I reprinted them in a book and gave copies to everyone that year. It was amazing that none of the 6 of us kids gave the same memory. It was a fun thing to read and I'm so glad I did it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today Rosaria..have a good weekend.

Linda Myers said...

I don't have continuity either, but it's not because I was an immigrant. I was the daughter of a military officer, and we moved every three years during my childhood. We left behind friends and schools and neighborhoods. When I try to remember, the whole thing is based on what house I lived in at the time.

Becky Jerdee said...

Hi Rosaria,
I was able to access your blog through Facebook. And access to the comment section was open, too!
Loved this post...I have so much gratitude for the free and easy life I've been given...so far. It is my hope that my children and their families' lives will not be broken by violence and unforeseen circumstances.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria - well said ... those who stayed together probably sometimes envied those who freely travelled and saw different countries. We all have different perceptions. Certainly having lived abroad, and now blogging ... I have quite a broad idea about life - but there's always more to learn.

I do think of the people arriving now and what their future holds, and how they were able to pluck up the courage and get here or there ... as it was 250 years ago when the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Britain. Or the War refugees - both 1st and 2nd World Wars ... we need to think and relate ...

Your husband is lucky - you are lucky as you can sit on the side-lines and enjoy the 'gossip' about times gone by ... cheers Hilary

Rian said...

My brother and sister have both passed, but my cousins and I reminisce whenever we get together in New Orleans. As adults, we don't live in the same state, but we grew up together and share wonderful memories... and 'not so wonderful ones'. Once we were playing with some ducks in the backyard when we were little kids, one of my cousins accidentally stepped on a baby duck and squashed it. Talk about 3 traumatized kids! None of us ever forgot that...

And I'm sorry that you (and maybe many others) don't have the opportunity to share those things. It is a gift we should appreciate more. But at least there are always memories.

Maggie May said...

I appreciated this post as it reminded me of when I moved as a child from a home 200 miles away and I felt bereft. Although I had my family with me , I'd left cousins, aunties & uncles and friends and I can remember being so homesick for a very long time. Eventually I could relate to the present city I live in more than the town I left.
Makes you think of all the turmoil that so many are going through today though as refugees.
Maggie x

dianefaith said...

I've often wondered how it is for those of you who move from your country of birth and early experiences. One generation ago my family had stayed in one place and had all kinds of stories to tell about each other. With all the busyness and isolation of the last 30 years we've lost a lot of our connections, even though we haven't moved that far away from each other.

#1Nana said...

I too am an immigrant, but moved to the US very young. My memories of England are probably based more on hearing family stories. I know that when I visit England, I feel at home. I'm glad we have retained connections with some of the family in England...and now are facebook friends too! When I get together with my brothers we all remember the stories differently and still bicker about who was responsible for one heinous act or another. This was a lovely piece of writing. It's good to reflect on the challenges that the refugees face and remember that there will be a new American generation that knows their homeland only through the stores their family tells.

troutbirder said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for the thoughts. And may the new pilgrims fleeing war and oppression find a safe have here in America in spite of.... well you know who.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'm much older than my siblings, but we're closer now than we were as kids, because of that. It took awhile, but once they became adults, we were able to start getting to know each other better. However, we've also gotten busier, each with our own jobs, plans, families, which makes it hard to get together as often as we'd like.

This was a lovely post. I question if all of these people fleeing their homeland will be in contact with the family they've left behind. It's a sad thought.

Sally Wessely said...

Rosaria, your words have touched me deeply. Having worked with immigrant kids most of my professional life, I often thought of the feelings and losses they would suffer that you have so poignantly described here. I so often think of the refugees and my heart breaks for them. Almost nothing could be worse than leaving everything behind and making a treacherous journey with an unknown destination. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece of writing with us. You have shown us your deepest longings. My heart hurts for you losses.

Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed your post very much – you talk so well about feelings. It must be great to have a brother and shared memories like your husband has. I have no family, apart from my husband and children, here in America as I was an immigrant like you. I left by choice of course but I still wish I had some kin to speak with about old time in Paris – as the city has changed so much. I love visiting my cousin in Paris but it has been 2 years now and they do not have a computer. My father was the one who had it harder than me. He left Turkey because of the genocide against Armenians there and never could go back to that country. One thing I miss a lot is not speaking my language here – do you get to speak Italian once in a while?

RNSANE said...

It's so good to read your blog again. My family was never close. My mother was one of 13 assorted siblings born of Mississippi sharecropper parents - half siblings, step siblings and I never knew most of my aunts and uncles. My one brother and I are estranged and my family has become my forensic nurse friends. It is really sad. At my fifty year nursing school reunion in October in New Orleans, I felt those friends were more like family. I am glad that my three sons are close and sweet little Harper, soon to be three, glues all our hearts together. Another grandchild arrives in February for my middle son - but my two other sons are content with just being uncles and not adding to the family!