Third Monday in every February. Here in Ontario, we call it Family Day. Or, we call it an excuse for a long weekend in February. Either way, I’m good with it.
The picture on the left was taken in the summer of 1987. I was 9 years old, turning ten in about a month. I’m in this photo, though I’m not about to say where, as it is slightly embarrassing. My Uncle Fern had died a few days previous and so many of my family from Sudbury were down for the funeral. So what did we do? The only thing we could do when my Pepere and Memere were around and there was family visiting: have a party. Get lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of good music and celebrate. In this case some lightening of spirits was definitely required, as everyone was obviously gathered to mourn the loss of a brother, uncle, cousin that was taken far too early.
Growing up, I remember quite a few gatherings like this. To my Pepere and Memere, family was everything. Family were friends. Family was who you hung around with when you wanted to have a good time. There were always relatives coming from up north and elsewhere to visit, sometimes for weeks at a time. I also remember summers when Memere and Pepere would get in the car and disappear for 2 weeks or more. Moving around from family member to family member, visiting. Of course it was rare that they went anywhere that Pepere didn’t build something before he left, a porch, a table, a deck, etc. He always left a piece of himself everywhere he went.
It seems though, as I’ve gotten older, and he has passed on, that things really aren’t like they used to be. Relatives that I remember from growing up, I haven’t seen since his funeral 15 years ago. Not that this is anyone’s fault, it just seems as though as one generation leaves us, and our generation has become the adults, things have changed. We still are family, but it seems like we’ve separated from each other. When my Mom was younger, they spent the summer travelling around visiting family. Now that I am grown and have a family of my own, we don’t do that anymore. We’re obviously busier, women aren’t housewives and stay at home Moms the way they used to be. We’re working, and when we get a week off here and there, we’re tired! What time we do spend travelling is usually spent on a vacation for our own little immediate family – a weekend in Niagara Falls, a week at Disney World – something to make up for the times that we don’t get to spend with our kids, and to create memories for them like we had growing up. Except sometimes I think I forget that some of my greatest memories growing up were not the time in Niagara, or the trip to Disney, though they were amazing. The times that stand out to me are the weekends where family came to visit. The trips up north to my Uncle Claude’s cottage on Manitoulin Island. The yearly horseshoe tournaments. The trips to Florida – not because of Disney as much, though that was awesome – but to visit my Uncle Bill and his family.
Life has changed so much since those days. Sometimes it seems hard to just keep it together, to keep in touch with those that we consider close friends. Life gets in the way. It gets so busy. We grow up, get married, have kids. There are work schedules, school schedules, practices, meetings, appointments. When the weekend comes, we often just try to catch our breath, not just hop in the car to drive a few hours to visit friends or family. The same thing is happening with those friends and family, so they hardly have time to visit us. It almost feels like I wish we could hit the pause button, just for a little while. So the phone stops ringing, and time stops tugging at my pant leg, saying “hey, lets move!”
The point of this post isn’t to say that we should get those days of old back. Because deep down I know that isn’t going to happen. Life isn’t going to slow down any. If anything, it’s just speeding up, which I’m really noticing as I get older and watch my child grow. I guess what I’d like to do is just acknowledge those days, and strive to bring at least a little of that back. Stop and take a few minutes to smell the roses, so to speak. Call a friend, or a family member. Or just remember, and try to pass a little of that legacy, and those values, onto our own children.
Happy Family Day!