You never know how strange your relatives are until you peer through the looking glass and view the life of another family.
Well, that is not entirely true. I have always known I have a strange family.
So much so, Canada as a geographical representation of my family has been successfully avoided for seven years- but I have slunk back out of circumstance and feel compelled to catch up with those who I have shared my early life with.
I am no physicist and my Quantum mechanics and string theory is only a few Dr. Kaku Youtube clips strong. But time seems a strange and nuanced game, one that plays tricks on the mind. After my extended hiatus, I feel as if I have stepped through a portal, I am cognizant that time is a paradox- unyielding, yet fluid, and given to solipsistic tendencies.
I remember my childhood home, cathedral in stature, with fragrant cedar ceilings varnished to a warm glow in the low Alberta afternoon light. Now, that home seems small and shabby.
I remember the fields that surrounded my town as carpeted with sweet grass and clover. Small creeks passed through teaming with frogspawn and clouded over with buzzing dragonflies. Today, those fields are filled with cookie-cutter houses, and hot asphalt surrounded strip malls.
I remember my family as paragraphs of time, rather than as a sequential novel. Short narratives that have be embellished or diminished with how many times I have reflected on, or told our stories to others.
Today, those family members have children of their own- mortgages, cars, life insurance, and college funds for their kids…their lives seem heavy with events.
As I return ‘home’, it seems everyone is well past their opening moves.
Queen’s pawn game.
Speaking of Queens, I remember my mother as something between the Queen of Hearts, possessed with an ungovernable, blind-fury and on other days, as The Red Queen controlled by a cold and dissociated hate, formal, calm and entirely terrifying. Nothing has changed in that regard.
Time has stood still.
But there are places that time is filled with beautiful fluidity, and no one is working on their defensive game. Where there is a simple ease and rapport with those that share the same genetic code as you.
There are families that actually get along, that work together to make each other happy. It’s true. I have seen them. I am spending time with one such family now. Sometimes I look at these people in wonder. How did they get to be this way? What series of events led them on a path to kindness and connection? Was it that they had more money, or a different kind of faith, or was it just luck, of the dumbest kind?
I am not sure. But I will tell you these people have something that I don’t. They seem so grounded, so tangible, so real, as I float left of center and peer through the mirror at them with a feeling that can only be described as... desire.
When I tell my friends that they are lucky to come from such families it is not to invoke guilt but rather a vocalization of my own amazement of how precious the time is that has been given to them.
But all is not lost. Being a teacher is like starting a family each year. You begin in angst and nerves, like a new parent unsure if you will break the baby, you enter the classroom and simply hope for the best. Quickly you learn that each group is different. What worked the year before has no guarantee that it will work again. As teachers, we love each child, as unique and fallible individuals, but not one more than others. We see our students enter the classroom as ego driven individuals and leave as part of a community of learners. We make sure that we wrap them safe within the boundaries of clear expectations and ribbon them with love and acceptance. And when our time is up and the year has ended, we let them go.
Children are simply easy to love.
The real challenge adults face is to love big people as we love children. Accepting them as they are, with their faults, and grit and grief. To understand that our time with these people and the impact we have on them is just as profound as the moments we share with children. Our family in fact, is not just those who share our genetics, or our memories, or our time, but those we choose to love. And although we are busy writing the story of our own lives, if we are mindfully present we can learn to connect with each person we come into contact with and treat them with kindness and compassion.
In those moments, our family expands far beyond our bloodline and encompasses the human race. As someone from a ‘broken home’ I find it liberating that we are not defined by the past but what we choose to do in the present.
This is a simple reflection; brought on by the love that I have observed within the family I am staying with. It is a reminder that time is precious. We have but one life to love those around us.
Let’s make it count.