Thursday, December 20, 2007

Family Bridges

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

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.

Here are some photos that I took on my way to and around Bowmanville last week.

The day became snowy by mid-afternoon, but it started off with a fiery sun which painted the sky from behind the clouds. This was the view as seen from my desk chair at home.

On my way to Bowmanville, I took this shot through the window of the train, when we stopped briefly at a station along the way.

We saw many lovely sights when we took Benny for his daily walks among the cedars. The weathered trunk of this old tree attracted us with its expressive face. What does Benny see?

Snow-covered burrs cling to the last light of dusk.

Early the next morning...

Along the water's edge, trees reach out to greet each other from opposite sides of the creek.

This tree reminds me of an elephant, with the left-hand branch as his upraised trunk.

The snow began to fall lightly as we edged our way along the creek.

If you follow this bridge, it will lead you right into a Claude Monet painting...

...or perhaps downtown Bowmanville.

On our way back, I glanced up to find this hawk perched above my head.

An unusual splash of colour caught my eye as we neared the road. A lost helmet perches on a tree stump, waiting to be claimed.

I'll post more photos from my visit in a few days.


Frank Baron said...

Lovely sentiments Hil and fine pics, as always.

Why, looking at them - this is gonna sound weird, I know, but bear with me - looking at them - I feel like I was there!

In fact, my boots are still wet. ;)

Phyllis E said...

Hi Cuzzie,

Well, at least we were there in spirit, even though we are geographically challenged.



the Bag Lady said...

Hilary, what a terrific post, as always! You do such a wonderful job of expressing yourself! And the photos (even though I haven't seen all of them yet, but will!) are wonderful.
Such talent, and all wrapped in such a pleasant personality! Sheesh, I do believe the Bag Lady is jealous...!!

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that a civilized divorce is far, far better for the kids than a rancorous marriage...held together "for the sake of the kids". You are to be commended. I think you've done yourselves and your families a tremendous service. Hope your holidays were/are wonderful.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Really, really beautiful pictures. And you have such an amazing ability to capture the warmth of human relationships without being the least bit goopy about it!

Yikes, posts like this could almost make a Crab less Crabby.

Hilary said...

Thanks Mr. Baron. This is going to sound a bit strange too but, you look a tad familiar to me... ;)

Hey Phyl, you're always here in spirit and sometimes even in person, for which we're always glad. :)

Whoah, Baggie, that's such a blush-worthy comment! Thanks so much for your super sweet words. :)

Thank you so much, ABeave. That means a lot to me. :)

Thank you, dear Crabby. I've yet to see the true crabby side though. :)

Kappa no He said...

Amazing post and amazing family. Your kind of love and open- heartedness is contagious. And I love the analogy of family and bridges.

Hilary said...

Thanks Kappa..much appreciated. :)

Reb said...

Hilary, you are so good with words! It sounds like a wonderful pair of families to be a part of!

Great pictures as always! I saw the elephant before I read your caption, glad I am not the only one that sees things in inanimate objects!

Happy Holidays!

Hilary said...

Thank you Reb, and I didn't think I'd be the only one seeing that elephant trunk's trunk. ;)

awannabe said...

That was a lovely post about family at Christmas. Awesome bridge and mennorah pix. I've never seen a mennorah with those colors and I wonder if each color has a message.

Hilary said...

Thank you Awannabe. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the colours have specific meaning. Most boxes of Hanukkah candles are quite the colour assortment - at least around here.

roentare said...

Your photos and words are such powerful images that make me ponder

Hilary said...

Thank you roentarre. I hope you'll ponder a return visit. :)

Anonymous said...

a beautiful post, hilary, leaving much for me to ponder.

Hilary said...

Thanks Twizzle, no doubt you'll be munching on chocolate whilst pondering. :)

Dave said...

Hi Hilary. I have just read your very early blogs. it was nice to get to know you better. So glad that you and your family and friends are happy and have fulfilled lives. Yes, you have cause to be proud of your boys. Best wishes to you. Regards, Dave

Hilary said...

Thank you so kindly, Dave. You've made my day. :)