Give me some place that I can go
Where I don’t have to justify myself
Swimming out alone against this tide
Looking for a family looking for tribe
Ok – that might be a bit dramatic. I’m not actually ALONE without family. I have family I grew up with. We were very close to my Mom’s side of the family until we moved from New York. And I was (am) close to my father’s sister as well. There’s a 20 year difference between them, so I’m actually closer in age to my Aunt M than my Dad is to her – which makes it easy to feel a bond with an aunt that is more like a cousin.
That said, once we moved, we didn’t see family often – there was no internet and flying across the country for a family of four is not cheap. My Father tends towards a more solitary lifestyle (like a hermit, really) and didn’t talk so much about his family. So trips were infrequent but cherished. Of course, as I got older, we traveled as a family less and less and I wouldn’t know some of my cousins if bumped into them on the street. So in this day and age of social networks, Facebook is a gift for those of us that want to keep in touch but don’t have the means to do it by traveling.
That aside, I did grow up feeling very different from my family. The black sheep, if you will. Not that I was a ‘bad’ person – but I was hard pressed to find common ground with anyone. I love them all dearly as they love me, but I found no one in which I could share my tastes in music, reading, philosophy, politics, avocations – any of that. I often wondered if I was a foundling – plunked down amidst a family, which in many ways, is diametrically opposite to me.
Several years ago my Mom’s Mom died and I went back to New York for the first time in almost 20 years. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to see my cousins and meet their families. But, alas, I was still the odd-(wo)man out. I took a lot of teasing about my political leanings (left – very left) and one of my cousins joked that I worked for ‘communists’ (I work in public television/PBS). No one shared any interests with me and neither I with them. We did have plenty to talk about and got along fabulously well – but common ground was hard to find.
The one low point was when when a family member got verbally and almost physically hostile with me DURING THE FUNERAL about my support of President Obama. I never even MENTIONED politics because I know they are all fiercely Republican and I have no interest in being verbally beaten down and having to defend my views. And I wasn’t there to ‘convert’ anyone to my ideology. I don’t enjoy arguing about politics but I do like sane discourse. For some unknown reason someone made an off-hand remark about me being a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ and they just went a little berserk. As an aside, I would NEVER walk up to someone and call them a ‘black hearted conservative’ – but people think it’s A-OK to do the opposite. Why, I cannot fathom. ANYWAY – the point of this is that even after all those years, I still felt like I was set apart.
Then something a little fabulous happened. A cousin of my Father’s contacted my Aunt M looking for information about my family as he was putting together our family tree. My Aunt and I were insanely excited –bordering on inanely euphoric. It was completely thrilling to discover a whole new side of my family. And most of them reside in Canada. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a Canadian-Wanna-Be. I know my Father’s family is Canadian and that he’d lived there for several years as a child. I always loved the few stories he’d tell me about living in Ottawa – skating on the canals, speaking French – I yearned to do those same things too but never had the opportunity. My Father was very close-mouthed about his family to begin with and his Father (my Grandfather) died before I was born. When my Father’s brother died quite young, he became even more guarded about his life growing up. One thing he did tell me often was that he thought I was a lot like his side of the family. Of course, I was completely skeptical as I never thought I was much like my Father. I think I need to rethink that now.
Turns out, he was 100% correct. I am a lot like my Father’s clan. Through the magic of Facebook I’ve ‘meet’ a whole slew of relations. People that I actually RESEMBLE physically (weird, eh?); people that I share common interests with – love of music, food, hobbies, ice hockey, nerdy IT things, hot yoga, running, biking, education and a host of other things that I find fascinating. I feel like a missing puzzle piece that has been found and fitted into its proper place. They have all welcomed me into the fold and I’m kinda warm and fuzzy inside with the experience.
I hope they take a shine to me because I’m in it for the long haul.