Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Time for Family

"In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future."
Alex Haley

This is reposted from last December, shortly after I met Frank's sons for the first time. The photos are from a snowy day in January - much like yesterday.

When it comes to having great families, I'm one of the lucky ones.

I have two healthy, intelligent and talented sons, both of whom are home for this holiday season. Their Dad and I separated several years ago, but remain good friends, and partners in parenting our boys. There isn't conflict or bitterness between us, so our respective extended families have always remained warm and welcoming to both of us for important events and occasions. Don is always invited along to my family's birthdays, pool parties and Hanukkah. And invitations to Thanksgiving, Christmas and his family birthdays have always been open for me. They're not just polite gestures either. Our families sincerely want the other to join in the festivities and remain a part of the circle.

Initially, we might have decided to stay friends because of the kids. Our boys were still in elementary school at the time, and if we couldn't give them a family that was intact, they were at least entitled to parents who were united in fulfilling what was in their best interest. It didn't take long for us to realize that it wasn't only for our sons' benefit, but also for our own, that we were able to hold onto the friendship and respect which weaves its way through our entire relationship. Whatever the glue, I value the connection we will continue to share when both of our kids are fully grown.

My own remaining family consists of my sister and her crew, two aunts and a collection of cousins and their own offspring and grandchildren. Between the first cousins on my Dad's side, our children range in age from mid-teens to mid-forties. Most of us, who have migrated from Montreal to parts of Ontario, get together a few times a year at one home or another. At our Hanukkah party this year, my cousin Frances marveled at how everyone who was not hindered by geographical distance, made a point of being there. At an age when most kids prefer to be doing almost anything else with their friends, ours all opted to be at a family party. That warms the heart.

Our babies have mostly grown up and have begun the process which tells us that we have been successful as parents. They have become independent. It's bittersweet, but it's right. No doubt they'll make mistakes that we can't prevent, and reach milestones of which we won't always be a part. Hearts will still be broken - our own along with theirs, but they're growing and learning, and doing exactly what they should be doing. Experiencing life.

It's often difficult for us to take that step back and accept that our influence was mostly in the past - that despite how much we want to say "Choose a safer career" or "You deserve better than him" or "Don't move so far from home", we simply have to trust that the lessons and morals we've instilled in them through their early years are enough to carry them through. Aside from wanting to keep them safe, healthy and happy, the best that we can hope for is that they continue to evolve and grow as individuals. And they will.

Family bridges extend themselves in many ways, through near and distant cousins, in-laws, dear friends, neighbours, online friends and those special individuals who have been given the honourary title of Aunt or Uncle.

Yesterday I received an email from Frank's younger son, whom I had just met for the first time a few days prior. He wanted to know what I thought of him and his brother. After expressing the warmth that I felt for the two of them, he replied with his own impressions of me. Among his many kind words he said "ur already family to me." That sentiment had to be among the best honours that has ever been bestowed upon me, and for many reasons, it means the world to me.

At this time of year when families get together, I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season, and I wish you the joy of being with the people you love. The people who call themselves Family.

Happy Kwanzachristmakah!

A glance down between the snow-covered branches allows a small peek at the lake below. (please click to enlarge)

Upon a hill, looking down at the partiely-frozen lake, you can see where the ice ends abruptly. (please click to enlarge)

There are two willows at opposite ends of the lake. This is the younger one and its willowy branches are still sporting fall colours. (please click to enlarge)

A male cardinal out-brightens a comparatively drab sparrow in front of, and to the left of him. (please click to enlarge)

A park bench waits for someone to clear off the snow and sit for a bit. It wasn't me. (please click to enlarge)

Frosty branches bear the weight of the fluffy snow. (please click to enlarge)

Down the path and headed for home. (please click to enlarge)


Pat - Arkansas said...

Thanks for the re-post. It was a pleasure to read about your family and its connectedness.

Love the snow photos! I'm glad, of course (I think), that I can't see that out *my* window, but it's lovely.

Dianne said...

I'm so glad you posted this - I have learned so much more about you which is a delight

and here I thought Frank was just a guy you took pity on as he wandered the woods ;)

the snow photos are stunning, I love the little cardinal and the bench shot

Happy Everything!!

blunoz said...

That's really heart-warming. Thanks for "re"-posting this for those of us who are new to your blog.

I think it's wonderful that you're on such good terms. Having been on through my parents' very bitter and completely NON-amicable divorce, I can attest to the toll it takes on the kids both spiritually and emotionally.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to both sides of your family!

Yolanda said...

I really enjoyed ths post and the snow photos.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen and amen. I have done this with my former husband for more than a dozen years. Our twins are applying to college this year. I couldn't be happier or prouder. Of all of us.

Anonymous said...

It says quite a bit when a separation is truly friendly and all parties are still happy to be friends. Somehow this doesn't surprise me one bit about you.

Zuzana said...

Hilary, this was a beautiful read. I could not agree more, I always felt that family was the most important thing in life. Family doesn’t always have to be a bond by blood; we meet people through out our life that make impressions and effect our present and our future and become important part of our days. I have many experiences in this. I love to hear about people such as yourself, who manage to get over their differences and disputes and remain close, not as partners, but as genuinely caring people. You are very blessed to be surrounded by such a wonderful family.

Your images are -as always- amazing; I love them all but somehow the one of the red cardinal is so representative of the season.

I hope your holidays will be lovely.;)

the Bag Lady said...

Hilary - I enjoyed reading this again! It was a wonderful post the first time, and still warms the heart. You are very lucky to have such great family connections.

And the photo of the cardinal against the snowy background is wonderful!

Happy Holidays!!

Suldog said...

Happy Hanukkah, Hilary! And a very happy and blessed everything else, too!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

OH! thanks for sharing all that!

Daryl said...

Happy Hanukkah to you and your lovely family .. near and far ...

You are family to us here in Blogland too!


Cheffie-Mom said...

What a beautiful post and photos. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Reb said...

That was a good read - both times. I love the Cardinal photo.

Happy Hanukkah & Merry Christmas to all your families.

Lulda Casadaga said...

Well, Hilary can you believe this year is almost up?! Love looking at your gorgeous snow pics. We only have cold down snow here yet! :( I WANT SNOW!!!

I hope you and your family have the best holiday ever...Happy Kwanzachristmakah!

Russell said...

Happy Kwanzachristmakah! to you, too! I love that phrase!

I really appreciated your words, too. My daughter is now 21 and I find myself wishing many things for her - but, like you said, you have to let them live their own lives and have faith everything will be fine.

The email you received from one of Frank's sons was incredibily nice. Talk about from the heart! Goodness! That says a lot about you as a person - keeping in mind that kids don't nomally employ a great deal of tact at times - so his thought to you was completely genuine.

The pictures are very nice - but this time your words are nicer.

Anonymous said...

You have woven a lovely tapestry of family. Thank you for the re-post, as I wasn't blogging a year ago and had missed this post.

My parents attempted some of this, but after many years of animosity, it is difficult to have that comfortable and pleasant camaraderie. We were teens or grown when they finally split up for good, so that might have something to do with it. When my 2nd born was baptized, my father (a minister) did the honors, while my mother played the harp later in the service. Two entire pews were holding back laughter when the resident minister referred to them as husband and wife. So I guess we didn't fare too badly after all!

My favorite picture is probably the Menorah. After that, definitely the birds (that bright red cardinal)!

SandraRee said...

Happy Hanukkah, Hilary. And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours also. I miss you. xo

Anonymous said...

Dear Hilary,

Happy Hanukkah to you! It has been a lovely discovery to find your blog, and Frank's. I enjoy your writing and consider you a friend in Blogville! This was a heart warming post that speaks well of you, though I know that is not the intent with which it was written :)!

Dave said...

Hilary, thanks for this heartwarming resume of your family. In New Zealand the Maoris (native people) have a term for such associations. They call their greater family their 'whanau' - pronounced 'far-now' and the Maori word for 'love' is 'aroha' - pronounced 'ar-roh-har' I am not Maori but such words have become a part of our language. - Dave

Dr.John said...

I loved the pictures but hate the snow.
I am impressed by your family and how you made divorce work. Too bad more people couldn't do that.

Tink said...

What you have is so special and rare. I've never known two divorced parents to be able to carry on a healthy relationship afterward, mine included. It's reassuring. My love to you and yours on this holiday. May it be happy and safe for you all.

lime said...

since i wasn't reading you last year i was glad for the re-post. you are indeed blessed in that you've been able to build something healthy for your sons and be received so warmly by frank's sons. thank you for sharing that.

happy hanukkah!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Pat. Much appreciated. :)

• Dianne, you mean he's not just a woods-wanderer that I took pity on? Hmmm I'll have to rethink this. ;) Thanks very much for the kind words. Happy everything to you too. :)

• Thanks kindly, Blunoz. I'm sorry that you had to deal with an unfriendly divorce but it sure is a common scenario. Thanks for the kind words and I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas. :)

• Thanks very much Yolanda. :)

• MPM, that's wonderful to hear. There's no better gift for the kidlets than giving the best that you can - in every situation. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for that kind sentiment, Susan. Very much appreciated. :)

• Thanks so much, Protege. I'm not at all surprised that you share familial-like ties with many - whether related by blood or not. Thanks for your very kind words. They always mean so much to me. :)

• Thank you, Baggie. Knowing that you've read this one before tells me that you're one of my early bloggie family members - something for which I'm most appreciative. Have a great Christmas. :)

• Thanks so much, Sully. And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

• Gary, thanks for listening! :)

• Right back at you, Daryl. And the sentiment is mutual. Happy Hanukkah to you. :)

• Thanks kindly, Cheffie. Merry Christmas to your and yours. :)

• Thanks, Reb. I'm glad you've been around long enough to have seen this before.. and you're still reading! :) That means a lot to me. Have a great Christmas yourself. :)

• Thanks, Lulda. I'd be more than happy to share this snow with you. It's yours for the asking. Happy Kwanzachristmakah to you too. :)

• Thanks so kindly, Russell. I know that with you as her Dad, your daughter will make wise choices throughout her life. Your influence is probably greater than you realize. Thanks very much for the kind words - they always mean a lot when they come from the heart, as I know yours do. Have a great Christmas.. and all the rest. :)

• Thanks, KC. I'm sorry your own parents' split wasn't so amicable but it's nice to know that they were able to put aside their differences at least long enough to make special events pleasant for their family. And there's always humour to be found - it's a great diffuser. Thanks very much for the kind words. Have a great Christmas. :)

• Right back at you, Sandra. I'm looking forward to your posts in the New Year. Have a great Christmas. :)

• Thanks very kindly, MT. I'm thrilled to have discovered your blog as well. Jane's adorable little face often crosses through my mind's eye. I wish you a very happy Christmas with your beautiful family. Thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Dave. Years ago, I had friends from New Zealand (we've lost touch over the years - one of my big regrets) who although were not Maori, used the occasional Maori expression. The uniquely Kiwi "Whanau" sure describes these sentiments aptly. Thanks for the kind words and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. :)

• Thanks Dr. John. I hope you have a great Christmas. :)

• Thanks so much, Tink. Much appreciated. Right back at you and Hoop with love and hope for a wonderful holiday.. your first married Christmas. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Lime. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I hope the holiday brings much happiness your way. :)

The Riverbum said...

Wow...that cardinal photo really pops with the color! It is a Holiday Card just waiting to happen!

Chica, Cienna, and Cali said...

beautiful post, Hilary and those images are gorgeous...the peek into the lake and the red cardinal stealing the show from the sparrow have to be my favorites :)

I am not sure if I will log in again before new year so here's wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season or as you said "Kwanzachristmakah!" :) and a happy new year ..stay warm and loved :)

AJEYA RAO said...

Merry Christmas & a very happy new year to you and your family...

photowannabe said...

I remember reading this the first time but it is just a sweet this time around. Family is the glue that keeps me together. Its wonderful that you have kept such a great relationship with your ex. That speaks volumns to your boys.
I wish you the best of this holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Debra (a/k/a Doris, Mimi) said...

This is such an inspirational post. I'm glad I dropped by to visit. I'll return more often...and if you don't mind, I would like to add you to my blogroll.

Stunning photos! Wishing you the very best this holiday season.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Love the re-post, and WOW! Those are amazing photos. That cardinal sure is a showstopper, but all of them are beautiful. (And boy, does it look cold, brrrrr).

Have a great holiday!

Frank Baron said...

Great post Hil. It's even better the second time around. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

High praise indeed.

I love your comments about our older children--you are spot on.

G said...

What a beautiful post - words and pictures - as usual. :) A wonderful holiday to you and all your loved ones... said...

I really enjoyed reading this, Hilary.....I'm so glad you re-posted it. It told much of who you are. Your soul. Your heart.

Merry Everything to you....and much peace and happiness in the coming new year, too!

Cath said...

Beautiful post. I hope your boys are home around Hanukkah or now for you to see them and them to mix with you all.
Thank you for those photos again. Such a beautiful country you live in. Best wishes to all your family, including those who call you "family".

Merisi said...

Dear Hilary,
thank you for sharing with us the warmth that emanates from your family. I wish you and your loved ones a holiday season filled with love and joy, and may it spread out all over the New Year!
Thank you for your wonderful photos, all are beautiful, but the ones with the sparrow and the Cardinal really touched my heart. I truly miss those beautiful cardinal-red birds!
With love and thanks,

Anonymous said...

That cardinal stands out like a drop of blood on a white handkerchief. (is that spelled right?)

Michelle H. said...

Wow! I have missed a lot of great pics from the past. I'm glad you are re-posting so I can see them.

Hilary said...

• Welcome, Riverbum and thanks. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks very much for dropping by. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Moi. I hope you are enjoying your road trip. The best of the season to you too. :)

• Thank you, Ajeya. Back at you. :)

• Thanks very much for the kind words, Photowannabe. I wish the very same for you. :)

• Welcome, Debra and thank you. I'm glad you dropped by and would be very happy to be on your blog roll. Please do return soon. The very best of the season to you too. :)

• Thanks very much, Crabby. I'm glad you like that photo. Happy holidays to you and the Lobster too. :)

• Thanks, Frank. Many things are. ;)

• Thank you, Jenn. I knew we were like-minded in that respect. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks for the kind words, BPG. Wishing the very best to you and yours too. :)

• Thanks very kindly for those lovely words, Carol. I wish the very same for you and yours. :)

• Thanks so much, Cath. My boys are indeed home with me for the holidays, and we're enjoying them very much. I hope yours are everything you dream of, as well. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thank you very much for the kind words, Merisi. They mean a great deal to me. I wish you all the joy and happiness of the season as well. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Abe. Yes, you spelled "blood" perfectly. ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks kindly, Michelle. Much appreciated. :)

Country Girl said...

"u r already family to me". Now that, my friend, is a wonderful gift!
Thanks also for the gift of your beautiful holiday photos. It's damp and grey here in Maryland, but nothing to complain about, really. Loved reading about your holiday and your loved ones.

Hilary said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kate. Your kind words always brighten my day. :)

Woman in a Window said...

What a sweet look into the workings of your family. I hope your holidays have been warm and close, filled with much family and many friends. (Nothing better than snow pictures to underline the draw of family indoors - together.)

Gary said...

What a wonderful, inspirational site!

From the colourful anecdotes to the family pictures, and on to the breath-taking scenery, this is one superb site.

Keep up the good work!

I invite you to visit my site:

Have a healthy, prosperous 2009.


Mortgage Advisor said...

These are beautiful pictures. I love it!
Hot Tips and How-To Videos.

princess jen said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm going through a difficult time with my spouse right now. It's encouraging to know that even through separation you can make it work. I hope that my husband and I are able to replicate that.

Anonimo said...

Ho scoperto solamente ora questo Blog e sicuarmente nel passato ho perso parecchio

Hilary said...

• Thanks kindly, WIAW. The season was just lovely and warm as you hoped. Thanks so much for stopping by. I've missed you in there here parts. :)

• Welcome, Gary and thanks very much for your kind words. I will indeed have a look at your site. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you megatips.

• Thanks for stopping by Princess Jen. I hope that you and your husband can come to a reasonably happy understanding so that you can both do what best for your kids. I'll think best thoughts for you.

• Grazie for stopping by, Anonimo

Linda said...

Gorgeous snow photos!!!

k-marie said...

I just scanned your blog and it is lovely.. I was a teacher for years so love photos of children playing .. the photos are charming..

martha said...

awsome picks

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Linda. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks very kindly, K-Marie. I hope you'll be back again soon. :)

• Thanks very much, Martha. :)

Group blogger & Seerat Basir said...

excellent set , wonderful photograph's ,its a great aportuty to see this blog for me.

Eaton Bennett aka Berenice Albrecht said...

Your photos are delightful...they make the snow look so appealing, easy to forget just how cold it is.
Beautiful work!

~Erin~ said...

Your photos are amazing! Thank you for sharing your snow covered neighborhood with me. Much different from the LA skyline out my window!

Hilary said...

• Thanks very kindly, My Rights. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks so much, Eaton. Not as easy to forget the cold when you're out there, but having the camera to distract me, and maybe a sip of something potent helps a lot. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, Erin. I've never been to L.A. but no doubt it would be a great city to visit. I'm glad you enjoyed visiting my city via the photos. I hope you'll be back again soon. :)

gondor said...

Thank you great blogg. Very warm and you have a nice family. Great pictures as well. Kinda like where i live. Wonderful.

Indrani said...

This was an eye opener about you. Both of you have done so well in providing an emotionally secure childhood to your sons!
Wishing you all the best in future!

PinoyXfat said...

this entry warms the heart.

Hilary said...

• Thanks very much for the kind words Gondor. I'm glad you came by for a visit. :)

• Thank you, Indrani. Much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks kindly, Heliconia. :)