Memoir week 2 Family
“I thought”, said my aunt, “you would have a difficult time when you went to Canada. “In order to have a family you would have to make your own.” And this is what I had done. I was visiting her and the other relatives on one of my excursions taken with one of my children so they could meet their cousins. I’d always been acutely aware of the lack of a family and wanted to give them as many relatives as I could, even long distance ones.
I arrived in Canada at the age of six and a half leaving behind my aunt and uncle and their children, by then more like siblings than cousins to me, and from that time on, and really for the rest of my life, loneliness became my constant and closest, if unwanted, companion. I made friends at school but my best friend of the time would always be best friends with someone else, I’d be the dispensable part of a threesome.
For the first couple of years the woman who brought me to Canada, later joined by her teenaged daughter, was part of our household. She was quite unkind to me, I suppose nowadays one would say I was bullied by her, but at the time as a young child I was simply unhappy. Later I understood better that she, too, was unhappy. She eventually left. My father had become good friends with a woman while he was still in Africa and they returned to the United Kingdom together. She it was who looked after me those happy months in the Channel Islands. Now she came to visit us in Canada. The following year she and my father met in Bermuda and got married, so I had a stepmother.
My stepmother also had a fairly small family, but they were close and she kept in touch with them, and they welcomed my father and me into the family. But, once again, these people all lived so far away we hardly ever met. Now that most of the older generation has died I keep in touch with only a couple of her Irish cousins, so distant they were hardly related even to her and of course not to me at all!
The first time I visited my English relatives I was about nineteen. My grandfather had for some reason become anxious to see me and had sent money for my air fare. My grandmother had died years earlier and he’d been quite promptly snapped up by a spinster schoolteacher who must have seen him as a good way to attain the status of a married woman.
After a day or two with the cousins I spent most of the rest of my precious three weeks being entertained by these two elderly people as well as a raft of second cousins and first cousins once removed, as well as my uncle, my mother’s brother, and his family. But it was the cousins who lived hundreds of miles to the south whom I craved to spend more time with, so the plans for my last few days were changed and I was sent back to them. While there I had a dream that I was in a house where I discovered a huge wing I’d not known existed, and I found treasure hidden under the front steps. I understood right away that this house represented family, a far larger family than I had ever known.
The last day I spent with them I have never forgotten. It was a day which seemed to last forever, as though in some way I was psychologically making up for all those years, thirteen formative years, when I had been in exile.
Since then I have made a family. Recently this seemed to become complete with the birth of a granddaughter, although, continuing the pattern of my life, this child lives a thousand miles away….