While reading my good friend, Squashed Mom’s blog (a must read if not on your radar) today about how she spent July 4th with her cousins, I felt tears slowly come out of my eyes and drip on the keyboard. Her post was about how she spent July 4th with her cousins and close family, mainly out of necessity ( to visit an ill relation) but the day turned into a reunion and celebration of their love for each other with a visit to the beach. I cried for the family that lives far away, for the reunions and celebrations that we can’t have very often.
I moved to NYC from Atlanta in my mid 20’s to pursue a life in the media. I had visited the city many times as a teen-ager and college student and had known from my very first visit that this was the city for me. I left behind my parents, and I am sure that my mother was broken-hearted when I left. Still, she wanted me to spread my wings and never once tried to stop me (although she was guilty of delaying my departure several times – literally, she’d unpack my bags after they were packed). Once I arrived in NYC, I knew I had found home. I immediately found work in television, and it was there I found my haven. I went home to Atlanta often to visit my parents and see my many friends I had left behind, wonderful ones at that.
Then a few years later I met my husband. He was English, having just arrived from London a few months prior. I had spent time in London after University and had a penchant for English culture (and his heavenly accent), hence our love affair began.
In the beginning of our relationship, we went to England twice a year, or whenever we needed to. My visits to Atlanta kept up but it definitely helped that my sisters moved closer to me, one in Brooklyn, one in Philadelphia. We spent a lot of time venturing back and forth, particularly for Jewish holidays, and England became a second home for a while. We thought about moving there after we got married but we decided to focus on our careers… and we liked our life here.
And then the children were born. We started traveling with them right away. My daughter was four months old when she first traveled to Atlanta, and one when she traveled to England (she learned to walk there). My husband has a much larger family than mine, so it became increasingly obvious that the bulk of their family lived abroad early on.
And if you want to know the truth, I think about it all the time. I know that we miss out on Jewish holidays, special events, birthday parties, graduation celebrations, Bat Mitzvahs, Bar Mitzvahs. When the invitations come, it breaks my heart to decline. My husband has missed out on events of some of his first cousins, his best friends, and the bond is not as strong as it would be if we moved there. The time we spend with our family in the UK is never enough. My kids feel an immediate chemistry to their first cousins that is unlike anything we have here in the USA and it’s impossible to replicate the feeling back home.
Thankfully, we live in a town made up of other international families like mine (we qualify because of him, even though I am more international at heart than most Americans), and we’ve established amazing relationships with other families who have family spread out all over the place like us. I’ve had to lean on them in times of emergencies, like when my father-in-law passed away and I had to leave my two children behind to rush to his funeral, which I would not have missed for the world. I’m grateful when we spend holidays together and I am sure that if we are still here in a few years, they will be in the first row of my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
Some people say that living near family has its disadvantages. Still, I long for it. Eventually, my beloved mother will come live closer to me, which is what I now want more than anything. As for my children’s cousins, and their beloved grandmother, aunts, uncles and the friends who grew up with my husband, who are scattered and live far, far away in Israel and England, it breaks that my heart that my children can’t see them more often. Skype helps, that’s for sure, and we often Skype Israel for my kids to see their first cousins and have been for the last ten years. But the truth is that it is never enough.
How about you? Do you live near or far from your family like us?