I remember when my aunt came to visit from South Africa a couple of years ago, it was an extremely exciting moment. It had been fourteen years since I saw her last, and needless to say, when she came through the airport doors, she didn’t recognize me, nor did I recognize her. We simply didn’t know each other. The majority of the time she was in Canada was spent with me trying to get to know her, relearning everything we thought we knew about one another. We tried to not focus on not seeing each other for so long, but rather making new memories. As the days passed and her flight home drew closer, the fear of losing touch with the reality of not seeing my family for a long time began to set in. When they left, I really didn’t know when I would see them next or if I would ever see them again.
It was hard growing up in a completely different country than my whole family; Thanksgiving and Christmas’ are hard when everyone is so far away from each other. Grandparent’s day at school was extremely difficult; seeing all the other kids with their Nana, showing them around the school. They would show their Nana’s their art work and it made me miss my Nana even more. I would spend the whole morning crying, begging my mom to let me stay home from school. I would get so frustrated and envious of all the other kids because I didn’t understand why my Nana couldn’t just get on a plane and spend it with me.
Or going to your boyfriend’s family dinners and just sitting there looking around at how each person is a blood relative and how they are all connected by something more than just common interests. That is something I want, to be able to know my roots, go home and see what house I grew up in, or where my parents went on the weekends. I long to know where I come from. Even though I am extremely grateful for each individual in my life, I still envy those who have the majority of their family within reasonable distance.
I don’t know my cousins or aunts and uncles. I couldn’t tell you what their favourite colour is or what they do on the weekends; I only really know them from the brief conversations over Skype or what Facebook has to show me. Yet, being apart has taught me things that nothing else can. Family isn’t just about blood, it’s about who will protect and support you through it all; someone you can turn to when you need it most or answer the phone and stay on the line when all you can do is cry. I learned that when I do see my family, to make each moment count and to focus not on what you don’t have, but what is happening right now.
As I grow older, I can’t believe the faith and courage my parents had to have when deciding to come to a new country with weird polar bear animals, new road signs and customs, and knowing nobody except my aunt. They were so courageous to move away from a dangerous country they once called home. My parents gave up everything that was comfortable to them and started all over just so their children could have what they did not. It took incredible courage and it’s something I can never repay them for. I am so grateful for my brave parents and the people I’ve learned to call my family.
Featured Image Via Unsplash