We flew out on Christmas Eve, the five of us, to Florida for a family reunion. One that had been months in planning. One that we had said we wouldn’t join. We left home at 3:30 PM for a 7:30 PM flight. We reached our gate two hours early and then found that the flight was delayed half hour. Our kids made friends with other kids and they ran around playing tag while I barely concealed my impatience at not being up, up and away. Despite its delayed start, the plane touched down early and we bounded out full of energy at 10:00 PM. The car rental turned out to be offsite, my phone dinged every few seconds with what seemed to be an impossible issue with our rental home. We were about twenty of us, adults and children flying in from across the world to spend the holidays together. The rental unit had no running water and the owners were shrugging and blowing us off.
Just as we finally made it to the offsite rental around midnight, Saathi turned around to wish me happy birthday. For the first time in my life I forgot it was my birthday! We reached an alternative rental close to 1:00 AM and walked into the house to cries of happy birthday and armloads of gifts. Hugging, kissing and smiling until my cheeks hurt, I tucked the kids into bed and crashed myself.
The week was bliss. Each day featured warmth, blue skies, water slides, pool in the house, interminable cooking sessions and late night games and innovative cocktails. Seven of us cousins, our families and our parents cozied up in a ten bedroomed house for four days retelling stories from childhood, remembering thatha and regaling the spouses with tales from yore. The children made new bonds, slept together squished under one humongous blanket each night.
We woke each day to high pitched children’s voices playing and telling tall tales to each other. We showered or not, we made elaborate meal plans, we took turns making grocery runs, loading the dishes, cleaning and cooking. We functioned almost seamlessly as one unit. We exchanged gifts, made memories, uploaded pictures and held color co-ordinated photo sessions. We sat in circles, our children on our laps and pulled each others legs.
Sometimes I caught myself alone with a niece or nephew, combing their hair, realizing such moments were rare. I shared nuggets from my shared childhood with their parents, allowing a glimpse of what it was like when their mom or dad were as little as they were. I painted a picture of fallible human beings, of bratty children and watched as their eyes lit up. I whispered I-love-yous and planted kisses into their hair and cheeks. I held them close for a few extra seconds before I let go, knowing this was rare.
I got to find out one niece was immune to being tickled, one nephew threw tantrums that surpassed the ones Laddu threw. I sat in a big blue pool with my children and others as they floated past me like driftwood. I caught glimpses of my cousins as their children floated past and provided a peek into what they would be like as adults. I got to watch a couple of them braved their fears and went down a tall water slide. I watched as others lay content floating on yellow life jackets. I learned first hand how fast my niece could run as she gave me the slip and ran towards a restricted area.
I lay in the pool in a swimsuit with my youngest bouncing off me realizing that in my forties, I finally am where I am comfortable. I love who I am when I am by myself and when I am in company. I like the life I have without regrets and wouldn’t change a thing about it. I also realized I am incredibly blessed by the people in my life and that is something I should never take for granted.
As the year closes out, I will be collating the pictures from the trip, browsing through my blog archives and cherry picking moments from this year I want to carry into the new year. I will also be leaving behind angst, a disappointing political outcome and fears behind. I will start the new year with hope and believe that it will be the best year yet.
Happy New Year!