Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Summer Wedding

A few weeks ago, I received news that my niece is getting married this summer. When I saw her last she was younger than my daughter is now. The idea of her being old enough to be married filled me with maternal feelings of love and loss such life events bring. The years and distance had turned this child into a woman I did not know at all. In the nights following, there were many restless, anxious dreams. 

Returning to the motherland after a decade and a half is daunting even without being in the harsh spotlight of a family wedding. I realized how many names I had forgotten by now and how relatives further from the main family tree had turned into ghostly wisps from the past. Many births, weddings and funerals had come and gone in the years I was away. Some of my favorite people are no longer alive and there will be empty spaces in homes I spent a lot of my childhood and youth in. This summer I would meet many young people for the first time, sometimes I would struggle to connect them to their parents who I may have known only in the passing. They would struggle to place me in the family tree and defining how I was related to them. We may have nothing to talk about.

Would such a family re-union hurt or heal ? I will likely have to answer the question about such a long absence. The truth would be hard to tell - that there never was a day in all these years when I missed what I left behind bad enough to want to visit. What does such a truth make me ? A person undeserving of family, origin and roots maybe ? And what right does such a person have to be part of their niece's wedding ? How would I make her feel if I told her why I never came to visit ? And yet there is no lie to adequately answer such a question without insulting peoples' intelligence. I wrote to her of my excitement to see her after all these years and received a warm reply for which I was very grateful.

Maybe it matters to no one that I was gone so long. Their lives intersected so little with mine that my absence was unremarkable. Yet, if I had been present I may have mentored some of my younger relatives, been a good sounding board for their ideas, expressed my maternal instincts in ways that brought me fulfillment. It took several days for the tumult of emotions, that this impending visit to India had brought on, to subside. I felt more hopeful that the extended family may remember me as I was a long time ago, that I may be able to travel back to a far less complicated time of my life - just enjoy feeling young and full of crazy hopes and dreams once again.

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