Every time I go back to Lethbridge, Alberta, I have this strange nostalgic feeling of “coming home” which is strange, because the last time I lived in Alberta was almost twenty years ago and my real home was 6 hours north in Edmonton.
My parents have moved a few times from the place we first “landed” in the US and so every time I “come home” to visit them, I visit them in a place I’ve never lived before, in unfamiliar neighbourhoods that have now become familiar through grocery store landmarks (like the Dillons) or my heavy reliance on street names. I think that’s part of the reason why Lethbridge sort of feels like my adopted hometown now. My Aunt and Uncle have lived in Southern Alberta since I was a little girl and so when I visit them I remember neighbourhoods and places from my childhood. I have memories of Lethbridge, filled with my cousins and their neighbours across the street or memories of that one summer in college where I lived with them and worked at Lucerne picking bugs and sticks out of peas before they were packaged and sent to your grocer’s freezer. Lethbridge has really become my home away from home.
Which is why it was great to fly out last week and meet up with my sister (who flew out from Saudi!) and hang out with my cousins who have really become like my sisters and brother in that home away from home. There was one slight problem, however. Somewhere between Saudi and London my sister Laura and her kids had picked up a terrible, terrible cold.
It slowly made its rotation through my brother-in-law, Rob, and some of my cousins, but we still tried to make the best of it. The one great thing about my family, is that we love going out and doing things together, but we are perfectly happy to talk hours and hours about solving problems—either our own, each other’s, or the world’s. When I take my little “mom sanity breaks” away from my kids, it feels like a mini vacation with the mom label still attached in some ways. Last week’s trip made me feel like it was just me again. In my family role before marriage and kids. I was the oldest “sibling” again around my sister and cousins. I was the niece and nephew to my Aunt and Uncle (with whom I have a really close relationship). We watched home videos (my Aunt and Uncle actually rented those big boxy video recorders from the video rental store and brought them up to Edmonton or recorded cousin time together when they still lived in Calgary in the mid-80s). They were really grainy, but really fun to watch, and almost surreal in some ways.
Laura and I soon realized as we watched that we were the same age as our parents and Aunt and Uncle in those videos and Laura’s kids were the same age as we were in those videos. Laura looked a lot like my mom and I noticed some similarities between me and my aunt in some of the footage. But what was most striking to me and Laura was how PERFECT all of us kids were. Every single one of us waited patiently for cake at birthday parties (even Mark who was a little over 1 year old) or for the birthday cousin to open his or her presents. On family hikes, every single kid listened THE FIRST TIME to what their parents asked them to do. We were these calm, happy, obedient kids. And it wasn’t just because we knew we were being recorded. Our mother reminds us all the time how obedient and calm and happy we were as children.
Since we’ve had children, Laura and I joke that we’ve been each other’s “parenting therapists.” It’s not that our mother doesn’t have good parenting advice. She has GREAT parenting advice—she was a fantastic mon and an elementary school teacher up until we moved to the States and has subbed in the public school system ever since. My mom is WONDERFUL with children. It’s just Laura and I have kids that are really tough kids sometimes (Laura’s kids don’t have autism, but they still give her a run for her money). Also, we have boys. My parents never had boys.
I came home from this trip thinking about how much I love my family—especially my extended family. I feel pretty lucky that I feel close enough to my cousins that I feel like they’re practically siblings and that I can talk to my Aunt and Uncle like I can with my parents. I love the openness and acceptance of me and my crazy and how we’re all accepting of each other’s crazy. I love how my Aunt and Uncle are therapists and they can give me counseling and perspective as both professionals and family members who really care and love me.
Here are a few more pics from this trip. I really had a blast (even though Laura and I were both crying at the end, because I really didn’t get to see much of her and now that she lives in Saudi Arabia, it’s even harder to see each other). I seriously have the best family ever. We’re not perfect by any means, but we’re perfect enough 😉