Two weeks ago, (on FIFA ’18 soccer final weekend) I travelled with my kids to visit my mother and her side of the family for the first family reunion in eight years. I hadn’t been to the last one, so this was my first one since my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary a few decades back. I was excited to go, because I knew that the only cousin that I had never met would be there, and because I still hadn’t seen some of my cousins’ additions to the family (wives and children). It was a great chance for my kids to realize that I have a great big family as well (since we moved away from my husband’s country they’ve been missing the dozens of cousins, aunts, and uncles whom they could visit often), despite the fact that we don’t see each other much at all. Our relatives came from as far away as Switzerland, Alberta, Portland ME, and California, and many of us had added members since the last one, so we were all excited to introduce them to the wider circle of family.
We truly are a bit of a microcosm: other than the fact that we live across two continents, we also have bloodlines that go as far away as Japan, Russia, Scotland, Switzlerland, Libya, and Singapore! We have faithful, church-going Catholics, easy-going Protestants, practicing and not so practicing Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and Couldn’t Care Less’s. As observant Muslims, we have to set clear boundaries as far as personal space (no hugging), pork eating (none allowed), and alcohol (we can’t be around when people drink it). My family was happy to oblige the first day, so we had a nice quiet evening at the campfire roasting vegan hotdogs and telling funny stories. I was so glad that the cousin I had never met before was present, as he’s got a remarkable sense of humor!
I got to hold my other cousins’ babies, and we got to spend some quality time with our elderly aunts. One in particular, aunt Pat, is rapidly approaching her eighties, and she’s now the eldest in the family, proudly earning the title of matriarch monarch of the family! If nothing else, this last one was worth the nine hour trip! My kids had a great time playing soccer, tag and a bunch of other games with my cousins and their kids. They reveled in the company and the ease with which games would start, without much organizing. That’s the beauty of big families: anything can become a fun and engaging game at the drop of a hat.
A family friend was kind enough to lend us her camping trailer, so that’s where we spent the night, which gave us our own personal space to pray and relax when we needed to. On the second day we had a big potluck dinner at my aunt’s diner (which was closed, being a Sunday), and each one prepared a meal that represented a different part of the world. My aunt made her famous turkey dinner (she’s always in charge of that on every occasion), my sister made another one and some veggie salads (zucchini and potato salad, not finding the proper potatoes to make roesti), one cousin made Hawaiian fish salad (I guess Hawaii represents the half-point between Japan/Singapore and California), another aunt made her famous meat-pie (which she warned us ahead of time would be off limits to us, because her recipe can’t be made without pork), I made khubza makhshya (stuffed bread with tuna and harissa), and everyone else contributed something delicious to the meal. This being Mi’kmaki… KFC had to make an appearance as well!
After everyone had their fill, it was time for pictures. Each multigenerational family posed as an individual group, then the elders together, then the first cousins, and then the grandkids, and finally the entire extended family together, posing on the front porch of my Mi’kmaq grandparents’ white house. We all took pictures with our phones, but a local photographer was kind enough to take pictures for us as well! I can’t wait to see those! I forgot to ask everyone for permission to post a picture on my blog, so I am not including it here, but trust me; it’s a beautiful scene! Nonetheless, I’m including other pics of the picturesque scenery we encountered there and on our trip.
I am glad we were able to make it to this family reunion, as my kids got to see Emma as well, the only dog they ever felt was partly their own. Perhaps she was holding off to meet us again too, because only a few days later she passed on. May she rest in peace in doggy heaven. It’s times like these that remind us how important it is to maintain connections, and keep them alive, because you never know when your meeting will be your last!