Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The B Side

I have a huge family, on both sides. My mom is one of 9 kids and my dad is one of 14. I have more aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins than I can count. We have family from coast to coast and beyond!

On the K side, my mom's family, we have all (for the most part) grown up geographically close and therefore we became relationally close. We all spent holidays, birthdays and summers together. I can remember countless Sunday afternoons at my grandparents house playing tag in the front yard or raiding my Nanny's sewing room for treats. My childhood was filled with everyday moments of just hanging out with my K cousins.

My memories of The B Side, my dad's family, carry with them a whole different vibe. The B Side has always been a family geographically divided, with about half the family living in Ontario and the other half living in Manitoba, so when I think of time spent with The B Side I think of weddings, Christmases and Summer Holidays, all the special occasions of life. I think of driving to Thunder Bay for sleepovers at Auntie Eileen's, barbecues at Auntie Debbie's and running wild through the gardens at Auntie Marie's or the anticipation of cousins coming from Ontario to visit with us! B Side family gatherings were always an event and in the center of it all was Grandma.

My Grandma was a force of nature. She was all business and little play. She ran a tight ship and proclaimed to have little patience for nonsense but we all saw the twinkle in her eyes as her boys teased and joked and rough-housed with each other. She would half heartedly threaten to pull out the rolling pin for something other than progies and the boys, her boys, would hug her and kiss her cheek in response and she loved every minute of it! For the record, 'her boys' were not just the ones she gave birth to, her boys were her sons or grandsons or any other stray friend who need a place to sleep and a few good meals. Although she had very little, she always enough room, food and love for one more person.

She loved us girls just as fiercely as she did the boys. I remember countless sleepovers, card games and cooking lessons at Grandma's house and each memory is filled with smell of her delicious cooking and the sounds of laughter. Her house was always overflowing with people and pets. You couldn't move through the house without stepping over babies and cats and dogs and running into grown ups playing cards or sneaking a spoonful of perogy filling! It was a busy little kingdom and Grandma was the queen, holding court from her favourite chair in the corner of her kitchen.

This past weekend a bunch of us from The B Side were together to celebrate my cousin's wedding and amid the hugs, laughter and chatter I noticed something. I noticed something or rather someone was missing. Last year, at the age of 92, my Grandma passed away and this weekend, at this very special occasion, I missed her. As I watched my dad and his brothers tell family stories and tease each other incessantly, I missed her. When my cousin grabbed the sprinkler and chased the next generation around the yard, I missed her and as we all stood on my uncle's driveway to say good bye to the out of towners I missed her.

Last night, after the kids were in bed and the house was quiet, I logged on to Facebook and scrolled through pictures from this past weekend. It wasn't until I was halfway through the pictures that I realised that Grandma had been there, at the wedding and family barbecue the next day; she had been there the whole time. She was in the middle of all her boys, horsing around on the church lawn, she was in the bell tower as my cousins rang the church bell and she was in the mischievous giggles of the little kids as the danced and ran and played. She was there with us, amounst us, in us.
We are my Grandma; all she worked for, sacrificed for and lived for. She lives in each of us, from the kids she gave birth to all the way down the line to the generations she will never meet. I see her in my uncle's laugh and in my baby niece's smile. I see Grandma in the hugs and plates of food that flow freely from the kitchen of each of her children and grandchildren. But mostly I see Grandma in the unwavering devotion to this family that each one of us has. She gave that to us ... and it is more valuable than buckets of gold could ever be!

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

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