August 13, 2012

A Feast of Family

Our youngest was quite sad for the first day back at home after our recent trip to Nelson to attend the wedding of her cousin Gisele and new husband Paul. We had stayed at my parents' house along with my sister Clare's family. "I miss Clare and Brent (her husband) and our cousins (Clare and Brent's two girls, aged fourteen and eleven)," she said with a few large tears in her eyes.

"What do you miss the most about them?" I asked.

"They're just nice to be around," she said.

In these few words our daughter said much. The joy of meeting kindred spirits, even if it is only once in a long while, is not something to be taken lightly. Finding people who possess a similar kind of sensitivity, intelligence, and a flair for the dramatic was such a joy to her and she sighed when realizing that in less than a month she would be back at school with a whole lot of kids she feels little in common with. Well, I said, that's the human race, unfortunately, (And then to myself I admitted that is the very reason we have signed her up for acting classes at the local school for the performing arts starting this fall. For the past two summers she has taken part in summer drama camps offered at the school, and has felt right at home.) and it proves how lucky we are to belong to a family like ours.

Ours is a large family, growing ever larger with the addition of the groom's family now, and the prospect of baby cousins to come sometime in the future, their potential beauty much discussed at the wedding reception. I remember almost thirty years ago, a similar event when my eldest sister, Monica got married to Matthew, a man she met in Winnipeg after moving there with a good friend Catherine a few years before. Matthew's entire family including his parents, five siblings, and an uncle or two came half way across the country for their wedding and our own family grew some more. After I graduated from high school I went out to Winnipeg to stay with Monica who was pregnant with her second daughter (the one so recently married). My second eldest sister, Clare, had also gone out to Winnipeg a couple of years previously and met her husband, so I spent much time with them as well. Matthew's brothers took me to a David Bowie concert, Clare and Brent took me to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, various friends took me other places (mainly places to eat) and welcomed me into their homes.

My niece Gisele is the first grandchild of Matthew's parents to get married, and the second of my parents. Almost all Matthew's siblings came out to the wedding with their children. The groom's family, including a cousin and his family from Denmark all came, and the attending guests numbered around two hundred and fifty. I had not seen the Winnipeg family, except for the grandmother, since my visit in 1987. Getting around to visit with every one of them took the better of three days, but fortunately, there was ample opportunity. The party extended beyond the wedding reception to the lakeshore where we all enjoyed a day of swimming, visiting, and relaxing while grazing the afternoon away on the leftovers from the wedding banquet the night before, and then another gathering was held before Matthew's family all had to leave. All but one of my five siblings were able to attend the wedding, and most of my parents' grandchildren were also there. It truly was a family reunion as well as an extremely joyous wedding.

The happy couple's first dance...and a tiger

Beach Day, post wedding

Staying in my parents' house along with my sister Clare and her family was a treat for me as well as my children. Clare and I have only met three times in the past several years due to the huge amount of country between our homes. She lives in southern Manitoba which is a full three days' drive from us out here on the west coast. It has made the most sense for us to meet in Nelson on our rare holidays together. Clare and her family slept up in the sleeping loft at the very top of our parents' house, our boys in the loft above the kitchen and my husband and I and our girls slept on the sleeping porch which wraps around one side of the house -  where we siblings all slept in summer when our second floor bedrooms were too warm. Every morning, Clare and I rose at pretty much the same time and took turns making the coffee.  We would visit with our parents while one by one the kids got up to join us in the living room or around the table. Two mornings of our visit we went for a run together, which was great, and I showed her some of my yoga stretches and she showed me some new ones from her running clinic. We talked about our children, we talked about our husbands and their work, we talked about our work in our respective communities, we talked about everything and nothing with humour and that great and comfortable love that comes from growing up in a close knit family and increases with the mellowness of age. Clare's husband and I were friends from the beginning and I enjoyed getting lots of time to chat with him as well. It was he who was instrumental in bringing my husband and I together, and we talked about that time in our lives when we all lived in Vancouver. Brent also introduced me to a quirky little cooking show parody called 'Posh Nosh' which has many episodes online...and got me hooked. I remembered how he was the one to introduce our family to Black Adder as well, and how he once made me a mixed-tape of some of his favourite songs. Our boys were also now old enough to find plenty in common with him as well, and enjoyed getting to know him better.

Later in the week, another nephew arrived from Victoria, and he slept in the den/library/office which used to, long ago, be my bedroom. Cooking for the household of fourteen was a job shared between three of us and so was almost stress free. We pooled our resources and came up with very satisfactory meals (many including additions from our parents' fabulous garden) which were enjoyed with wine every evening. The young people sat at a table on the front porch, and we adults sat at the dining room table. Meals were quite civilized that way, at least at the adult table. We enjoyed dessert almost every night, so it was a good thing there was plenty of swimming and walking up and down those Nelson hills to burn off the excess calories. Other families involved in the wedding stayed in the houses of friends and relatives in town so it was easy to gather together for afternoons at the beach and for evenings of wine and music at one or the other of the houses. We kept each other barely aware of the events of the London Olympic Games - someone, usually Brent, telling us of the latest glorious victory or crushing defeat.

The week went by so fast, and if the truth be told, I could have stayed on longer after the wedding, and done more: some hiking in the mountains, some shopping, some more visiting with Nelson friends, but it was not to be. The wedding and the visiting with family was what we went there for and jobs called us home - we stayed until the last possible day. I was very tired for the first couple of days home, but I still basked in the glow of the event and our time in Nelson, as I always do. We are so lucky, so blessed to have a large and loving family, which includes some members who, although not related by blood or marriage, have been connected to us for so long that they really, honestly do feel like family.

Today we finished the moving of our eldest son Ian and his stuff to his new place in Vancouver where he will begin a term of study in September and become a part of the music scene. Our second eldest turned eighteen on Friday and I know it cannot be long before he also goes off to find his life. I am wistful, but I am also confident, especially after our family holiday, that my children, even though they will move on and branch out as is good and natural, they will be happy to come home for a visit - maybe even an extended one - and to take part in larger family events. Heck, I'm forty-two and I still love 'going home'.

What kind of mother would I be if I didn't promote my son Ian's new 5-track E.P., A Stone's Throw now available for download here. The first song is timely for his move even further to the west. Have a listen and hear the results of growing up in a large family full of artists, writers and musicians.

Viva la familia! (and thanks to my brother in law Matthew for most of these photos)

Ian on the beach with his first love


  1. Thanks for including me at your family renunion. :) You described it so well (the cooking, sleeping arrangements, socializing, etc.) and it brought memories to me of times I've had with my extended family. It doesn't happen as often with us though. You're very blessed. And, as you said, it's only the beginning! Lots more marriages and babies are on the way.

    Best wishes to Ian! I'd download his music if I had something to download it to. lol Actually, I do have an iPod... somewhere.

    1. You're very welcome, Anita! I'm not sure when the next giant reunion will be, though :)
      I don't even have an ipod. Ian made a CD of his EP, had 200 printed and gave us one so I can listen to it on the stereo.

  2. Viva la Familia is right! What a wonderful time it all sounds like. Your kids seem happily creative.

    My side of the family is so small. Mom is from the other side of the world, and Dad was an only child. My husband's side is relatively larger, but mainly because of divorces and remarriages. Our get togethers are chores, often marked by arguments. *sigh* Maybe if I'm good, I'll get a family like yours in my next life!

    1. Hello Abby. My parents both came from relatively small families, too, so when they got together they said, 'lets have six kids' and they did. And those kids had lots of kids, too and many of them were creative. Most of us used to live in the same region and then about 15 years ago three of our husbands got jobs elsewhere and we all went our seperate ways. We really value the time we can be together!
      We don't always get along perfectly, of course, but overall, our great love for each other (and sheer numbers) wins out.
      Maybe your own family will be the start of something great :)

  3. Looks a happy time. Very 'Gathering of the Clan' in the Scottish meaning of the term. And not a bit stiff, if that fella and chick in the background of the 'First Dance' are anything to go by. Yep, a relaxed and happy welcoming into a clan.

    And tell that kid to cut that hair. Long clean straight blond hair looks girly, and I should know. Far better to cut the thing, it will age him about five years and that with the music will give him certain advantages. Not that his mother needs to know that.

    1. That's a good way of putting it, Vince. And yes, not a bit stiff. There were plenty of speeches and we girls in the family were laughing at ourselves because we were crying buckets with the joy of it all. Then we danced our socks off with our brother Stephen. There were tons of children there, too which I think always adds an element of fun to an event like that.

      I'll pass on your hair opinion to Ian :)

  4. is SUCH a blessing!! Love the words and the name Gisele...very elegant.


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