Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More musings on family

I have been mulling over the theme of family and belonging lately, and I started writing about it last week.

There are so many ways to define family. Most of us think of family as our closest relatives - spouse, children, parents, siblings. Then, there are some families who are very much enmeshed with a larger circle of relatives - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Some, and I have been lucky enough at times to enjoy this, even embrace second cousins and beyond. I have second cousins and second cousins once removed dotting this country up and down. MOST are in the Jerusalem area, but some are even here in the North. I have first cousins here in the North too. All of this is great. Sometimes we'll be out somewhere and bump into one of those 100 or so cousins (first or second, no matter), and then the country feels like one big family to me.

Other days, we feel like we're all alone. And that's where the other "family" comes in. Those people whom you adopt as your family. We have a small group of homeschooling families, from all around, 1/2 an hour or so in every direction, who get together regularly. In a way, we have become family.

How can I say this? No, it's not that I take the definition of family lightly. But let me explain. When I first made Aliyah (yes, I've done this twice), I really really wanted my sister to do so with me. She didn't. (This was about 20 yrs ago.) So, I went to university here, and made friends with the other olim (there were quite a few, even 20 yrs ago), and we all took care of each other, like family. We didn't have a "home" to go to like our Sabra counterparts, when we were sick, or on vacation, or just to rest on Shabbat. So we made our own little homes, and carved out our own little groups who acted as family.

So when one of our homeschooling friends told us she was pregnant, and worried about feeling all alone right after the birth, we all decided to pitch in. Some people live really close to her, and have been able to help out with her older kids. Some of us cooked up a storm and are storing food in our freezers for her, which will be delivered later in the week... We all call, and sent gifts, and we're all trying to fill in for her absent family. I truly hope that she, and other olim, no longer have to feel alone. We can all support each other, even just emotionally...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Family and Belonging

My cousins finally made it here for a visit! To be honest, it is not their fault that it took so long. I have been delaying the invitation, hoping for the day that my house is guest worthy and I'm not too tired to make guest worthy food. My cousins and I grew up 6000 miles apart, and I wanted to be sure they enjoy coming to my house!

Making aliyah does strange things, like taking these cousins who are your blood relatives but you hardly ever got to know in the earlier years of your life, and puts them within driving distance of your new home (of course, the flip side of that is that many other relatives are now 6000 miles away. But while we were in the States, we spent many years living between 900 and 1500 miles from our families. So although 6000 miles is further, but I think I have seen my younger sister MORE often since making aliyah than I did in the 3+ yrs prior to that. And she lives in the NY area. Go figure.).

So, Purim day, we tried to spiff up our house, the weather was gorgeous, our Rakafot are in bloom, cascading down the rocky area in front of our house, our lemon tree is still full with lemons (not sure we will manage to use them all), and I think I made guest-worthy food (to find out more about THAT, you'll have to check out my other blog here, although I haven't written up our Purim menu yet)!

And 2 of my cousins with various delegations from their families, came to visit! How amazing to have relatives who live within 1/2 an hour of my home. Now that we are all grown up, we can get to know each other in a way that is different if we had been cousins who played together throughout our childhood. Most of our conversations are in Hebrew (my second language, their first), although from time to time they try out their English on us. Usually they are forgiving of my mistakes...

This visit really made our family's day. It's good to feel like we belong.