My father was an only child.
My mother one of ten.
Once, as a child, I met some of my father’s extended family. A step-sister and her children. I think possibly another step-sister too.
I’ve met many of my mother’s siblings, and some of their children too, but seldom, have I been able to entertain them at my house. They mostly live in France, though some still live in India where my mother was born.
Last night was special.
My Auntie Maud’s son, along with his wife and their youngest son are visiting their eldest who has recently moved to Toronto from Bangalore, India. They journeyed west for a couple of days just to visit my mother. Which meant, we got to meet too!
Last night, they came for dinner with my sister and her husband with whom they are staying. We laughed and chatted and shared conversation and sat around the dinner table as families do.
As I sat and listened and watched and took part, I thought about the strands of family ties that bind us around the world. From Bangalore to Paris, to the south of France to Canada and all around the globe. My mother was the only one of her siblings to move to Canada. Most of the others left in the 1950s shortly after India declared its independence. The city they lived in, Pondicherry, had been under French control for centuries. Suddenly, no longer a French protectorate, those with French passports were given an option. Stay and declare your allegiance to India, or leave.
My mother had already sailed away at the end of the second world war. Her siblings made the same difficult decision to leave their parents behind and most of them, never having lived, or even visited France, chose to adopt Viet Nam as their home. It was a difficult and short-lived decision. Colonial rule was on its way out and the French government handed over their power to the Americans. My mother’s family moved, en masse, to France where the majority continue to live today.
My Auntie Maud and her husband, along with my Auntie Marie-Therese, never left India. It is the land they love. It is their home.
Roots have always fascinated me. With neither of my parents born in Canada, and having spent most of my childhood and into my twenties living outside the country, I have often wondered about my roots, about what makes me Canadian.
Last night, as I looked around the table, I realized that it was there, all around me.
I don’t need to wave a flag, or tattoo a picture of our national animal on my shoulder.
My roots are not found between the blue cover of my passport or whether or not I can sing our national anthem in both official languages.
They are found right there, sitting around the table, sharing stories, sharing each other’s lives.
My family is my roots. My mother, my sisters, my nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins and my two daughters who are at the heart of what enriches my life and fills my soul with meaning, connection, depth. It doesn’t matter that many members have passed on, or that I haven’t met all my cousins and distant relatives, or where in the world we are. It is that we are connected through the invisible ties of family that bind us together all over the globe. And as I continue to add to the web of family ties, the strength of each strand grows more brilliant through the connections we make in tying strands from others lives into ours. C.C. and his son and daughter and his large extended family are all woven into the tapestry of my family, creating brilliant hues where ever we connect.
I am blessed.
I don’t need roots to know where I stand. I simply need to look around the table and know, this is where I belong.