Eucalyptus leaves against the blue sky. I planted a small shoot about two years ago, it survived the first winter and has been growing and growing. has finally rained. The sky is grey, and if we are lucky we will get some more sprinkles.
Thanksgiving has come and gone. This day had no meaning for me, and only after having spent a number of years on this side of the ocean, I slowly develop an understanding of its importance as a family holiday. I am still surprised when people ask me how “we” celebrate Thanksgiving in country over there. When I reply that Thanksgiving is not celebrated, they either realize the error or look at me with surprise. Then I explain that there were no pilgrims in country over there. Thanksgiving is so engrained as a family holiday that the well-known history is simply forgotten or erased from memory. It is a family holiday, and that is it.
I know how important it is for Teenage Daughter not to feel entirely family deprived, and so we make usually once a year an effort to see the few existing relatives here, even though it means hours spent on the road, but I do not mind that at all. On the contrary, I love road trips. So we rent a car, no need to put those miles on ours, and off we go. By now Teenage Daughter has gotten used to not having any relatives in the vicinity. Both her grandmothers are gone, and at least one she got to know and remembers a little. Her only grandfather lives in country over there, and she gets to see him about every second year. It used to be odd on grandparents or family or whatever required-to-bring-a-relative-to-school-day when almost all kids presented at least one grandparent, and more commonly even two or more. Teenage Daughter’s closest relatives on this continent are her father’s uncle and his wife, and they live some twelve hours away, and that is even relatively close.
Do we need family? At some point I read that James A. Michener had no idea, who his parents were and where his family had come from. The idea of having no known heritage fascinates me. It means that you invent your own life, you are bound by nothing, and inventing and re-inventing, so it seems, is what Michener did throughout his life and in his novels. Freedom. No family needed here. Maybe I wish to see such a non-inheritance as a form of freedom, since I knew at leas to some extent who my parents were, at least my father, but this only partly knowing about who my mother was, what kind of a person, leaves me also restless. So better a blank slate? No family like Michener? Create your own? But not being able to know for sure still is no guarantee for not yearning to know and belong. I suspect that Michener researched his novels, all of epic proportions, in so much detail to create such a world of belonging for him time and again.
So we attempt to fashion a sense of belonging for Teenage Daughter. Will this prevent her to yearn for more knowledge about her family background? I have no answer to that. My guess is that I try to prevent such yearning by recalling stories, telling of the past and create little mementos. Not much. Just little things … giver her every Christmas a new ornament with the year written somewhere … I imagine her holding these ornaments up years later and saying, oh yes, I remember this one, we were in XY when I got this one. And she will have a story with it. I also have been writing birthday letters to her for the last two years. Let her keep them in a box, hardly look at them now, but at some point later in life those letters could fulfill a yearning if need should be. How I would love to have such a box. She will probably never need it, since she will have such a box. Those without family need it the most, and those with a family yearn it the least.