My great-aunt Iva passed away two weeks ago after a long illness. She would have been 91 next month. She was born into a large, farming family in 1917. She not only graduated from highschool, which was very unusual for girls kids from poor Maine farm families in those days, but she even went on to became a nurse. She moved far from home and married but never lost touch with the family she left behind. She returned to “the old farm” every chance she had and I, for the longest time, didn’t even realize that she had another house in another state! She was a constant presence in all of our lives. She lived a blessed life and we miss her very much.
After the service there was a gathering at her son’s home. The pastor said it was to be a “small” gathering but since she was one of 12 kids, with 7 kids of her own and lots and lots of grandbabies, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. “small” is a relative term. Her son’s home was full of people I see all together only a few times each year.
We decided to take Monkey with us to just see how he’d do and he did very well. I received so many compliments on his behavior. He wandered amongst the relatives and let them admire his curls (they drive the old ladies wild with envy ;-)), he was quiet and content to move among them. I sat beside him and named everyone in the room that I could point at and he played along, though there’s no way to know if any of the names stuck. I wish there was more I could do to teach him about the lives these amazing people have lived.
More than that though, I wish I could give him the sort of family I grew up in. I had 3 siblings of my own and dozens of cousins. I won’t even attempt to guess at how many 2nd cousins there were as well. My family was a social group all to itself. Today’s standard of small families seems so lonely to me right now as I watch that older generation dwindle in size. Monkey has 7 cousins and I’m grateful for that, of course, but I do wish he’d know what it was like to never have to worry about friends that first day of school because there were likely to be 2 or 3 cousins waiting for you at the door.
I’m feeling a very strong urge right now to move back home. I love the city and what it offers to us educationally and FX-wise but I really want to sit on my back deck and look at woods I played in as a child, woods that my family has owned and hunted on for generations. I want to yell across the street to my aunt and uncle. I want my cousin to pop over to babysit. I want my grandfather to come for a visit and know that the dream he had of his grandchildren building on the land he’d purchased had come true. I don’t know how much longer I have to make that dream come true for him or for me. No one does, I suppose, I’m just more aware of it now than I’ve ever been.