Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Family Reunion

We didn't fly back from Toronto in time to vote, but by the time we touched down on the tarmac New York State was blue and the electoral votes were probably already in.

Comment I made on Um Naief's blog last month re Powell's endorsement of Obama:

It will show the world that America is more sophisticated and therefore worthy of credit, if it can differentiate between Muslims and terrorists to such an extent that someone with a name like Barack Hussein Obama can be elected to leadership in an era where we have deposed a Hussein and are fighting an Osama.

My cousins had CNN on nearly 24/7 and it was refreshing to see the kids both from NY and Canada, ranging in age from 10 to 17, passionately discussing the candidates' closing speeches with each other and their parents. I mostly sat and listened, still not believing that these intelligent and articulate teenagers were babes in arms not so long ago...I remember when their moms were pregnant. I feel old. But I love that my cousins have such smart children. Well, so it should be, I mean imagine if it were otherwise for my cousin and her husband who are on the NY Board of Education and a high school principal.


Toronto Approach

My cousins (Ryan and Andrea) and I landed just a few minutes before the London bunch (including my Mum) so we all waited and met up in the International Arrivals lounge. My cousin Pierre from Orangeville picked up the London bunch and I went with them to Orangeville, and the rest were taken to Kitchener by their brother Neil.

Much of the drive between Toronto, Kitchener, and Orangeville looks like this:

I've been visiting Canada since 1979 but never have I been so impatient with the mileage. Usually I just let the endless driving pass by but this time every trip felt a half hour longer than it used to. 1 hr 45 min to get anywhere proved too much so my London cousins and I started up with the "Are we theeeeere yet?" a couple of times!

Endless straight flat or undulating roads slice through farms, fields, forests, and provincial parklands. Roads with names like Blind Line (because you can't see round the corner), 15th Line or 168th Line (running NW to SE), Sideroad 12 or Sideroad 39 (running NE to SW), Hurontario Road (because that's where it is) or Forks of the Credit Road (because that's what it passes through). I've made these trips in the dark in driving snow, and I will never know how my cousins know where to turn.

It was lovely countryside but I couldn't capture as many images as I'd have liked, even when we drove through the Forks of the Credit River area, over the river, and into Belfountain (conservation hamlet from the 1840s). Also, the fall colors were mostly over but my cousin Elizabeth asked me if I thought the deep orange sunset bathing the tops of the sparsely yellow-leafed forest trees reminded me of Klimt. Love it when my family says random things like that.

Despite an early snow last week which had melted, the weather warmed up and for most of the trip remained mild, even reaching 20 C (60s F). My London cousins were excited because it felt like English summer!


Some of you may remember Jay-Jay, or Jayj as I call him. He wuvs me. He's Aunty Rita's boy. My mother helped her adopt him about three years ago after she was widowed and her previous dog was put to sleep, so Mum was actually his first mum since Aunty Rita didn't really want him, and he missed my Mum when she returned to Texas. They rebonded after Mum sold our house and moved in a couple of years ago. He still loves his Aunty Ruth. When she talks to him on the phone from London now, he goes to her old room looking for her! She's the only one who tells him off so he can't get anything past her and he knows it.


Family reunions always make me happy. I have 24 cousins and between them they have about 17 children. Add to that the aunts and uncles who can make it, plus anyone related by marriage and you always have a full house.

On Friday some of us did last minute shopping at Canada's favourite store Winners, especially me. Not knowing Neil's 50th would be at a hall and there would be evening wear, I took decent clothes expecting we'd all go to Fiona's house like we did for New Year's '04. I picked up a black and white piece much like the one I have at home which is reddish and teal, both intriguing 4-in-1 dresses by Lapis:

The softer lining is a contrasting color to the shiny crinkled exterior, but interestingly the pattern is created by attaching the inner lining to the outer layer and punching it through. This lends a comfortable weight to the fall of the material. Also, the elastic smocked top ensures a comfortable fit. Because it's crinkled it's reminiscent of the old Fortuny gowns of the early 20th century that came rolled up in a self-cloth bag, and these things pack very well for travelling.

I had left my wide belt at home, so I called my cousin hoping she'd have a substitute. She did, but it kept popping off because the buckle was defective - the prong too short and the D-ring too soft. I wanted to wear it like the model on the far right but had to settle with the style on the far left until I gave up rebuckling it and left it off. The night of the party was bitterly cold so I layered up a little bit more than I'd have liked and don't know how some women turned up in proper gowns. Even when I'm indoors, if it's icy outside I feel it under my skin. Do you?


Rather excitingly, my mother splurged on me a bit with a pair of wool Tahari trousers and this striking red TH bag:

My cousin Ryan insists it is not "red", it is "oxblood". I would have never come up with that word unless I'd read it somewhere.


Images from Neil's surprise 50th:

1) Neil knew he was having a party, he just didn't know so many people (close to 200) would come and from so far away.
3) Mandy's husband Cornel emceed in true high school principal style with all the right speeches. He called every table up one by one to the buffet and then stood and authoritatively surveyed the room with his hands folded in front of him before deciding he could put down the mic and go off duty!

1) There was a belly dancer who danced to Moroccan music and then Neil joined in.
2) Five of six aunts showed up (the one in the middle is my Mum).
3) Cousin Alyssa and her man Jon, who is originally from the North of England.
4) Cousin Ryan and me.

1) Cousin Alyssa and my goddaughter Jada.
2) Aunty Rita and cousin Mandy.
3) Aunts Eve and Roh.
4) Cousin Pierre and Aunty Rita.


No rest for the wicked. We drove home to O'ville, and had to drive back to Kitchener the next day for dinner at Fiona's to celebrate cousin Michelle's 42nd birthday. Mich rarely leaves the UK, hates flying and isn't that keen on North America, so it was special to have her here.

1) Gathering for the cake and candles.
2) The cousins with a couple of aunts in the way.
3, 4) Neil and Mich cafuffle over the cutting. At Guyanese birthdays people rarely cut the cake alone. At my mother's 21st she drew names from a hat. Some English guy got called up, which puzzles most people not in the know, leading them to ask, "Who's she marrying there?"

1) Some of the older cousins chatting at the breakfast table. (Neil owns patents and a factory in Kitchener. Elizabeth (my godmother) is a non-profit consortium director in London. Michelle (Liz's sister) is a stay at home mum of three boys. Fiona (Neil's sister) also owns a company and her husband works with both her and Neil.)
2) Four of my second cousins. The two on the outside (Krystle and Tiffany) are Neil's and the two in the middle (Karissa and Kristine) are Mandy's, even though the two at the front look like sisters. Incidentally, Krystle is becoming a model and Alyssa was one briefly a few years ago.
3) Jada, Alyssa, and Jon who is really really good with Jada (whose father passed away 2 yrs ago).
4) Lala and O-o.

1,2) Jada and Sasha (a cousin's cousin on the other side).
2) Princess Kayla (Fiona's daughter) with her guitar.
3) Cousins Andrea and Mandy.

The Orangeville lot drove back but Mum and I stayed in Kitchener. That night she went to bed early but the rest of us changed into pyjamas and made lots of tea, and that's when we had the political discussions I mentioned at the top of my post. I love my family and they almost make up for my having no brothers and sisters. No matter how old we are, aunties and cousins will sit together and "hug up" as we call it. I had my turns with Fiona and Mandy, both of whom have been advising and encouraging me since I was a teenager. However, they are shameless and once they start teasing me or being cheeky, that's another story!


The cul de sac where Fiona and her family live. When I woke up on Tuesday morning after the rain, I heard a woodpecker rapping away on a tree in the copse behind the development.

The houses are spacious enough but still there's, like, another whole house in the basement! I envy those Canadians and New Yorkers their 1.5 homes on one lot. Texas doesn't have basements due to the tornadoes and floods. These basements have living rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms and endless closets. They rarely feel underground when they're not walk-out/garden level. I'd love to move in to my cousin Mandy's in Westchester - with the exercise room connecting the basement den and nanny's room to the separate apartment with its cute bathroom and front door letting out to the backyard. Man!

The End. This was long eh?


The Moody Minstrel said...

*pant pant pant pant* Yeah...long, but worth it.

I guess beautiful eyes run in the family, eh, m'lady? ;-)

Seriously, though. It's great that your extended family can be so large and yet so close knit. My mother's extended family was always like that; no matter how spread all over the western U.S. they came to be, they never failed to amass somewhere when something significant happened to one of the members (or some other convenient excuse popped out of the blue). Those reunions would probably be described as "quaint", "sentimental", even "droll", but hey...I always loved them for it!

Besides, we had some of the best Christmas jam sessions!

My father's extended family didn't really seem to give a damn whether any of the others lived or died.

Only an hour and a half drive? [, I won't say it.] Should I be really cliche and talk about the three hours it took to drive to visit my grandparents on my mother's side (which is now where my parents live) or the eight hour drive it took to visit the ones on my father's side?

(Yes, I know...)

That is a lovely-looking neighborhood, too. (Why am I not surprised?)

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

You can wake up now.

meimei said...

I love JJ. He is such a cutie! It sounds like you had fun

Olivia said...

Minstrel - well, at least I leave a decent amount of time between these long posts.

So, I see music runs in your family! Well done!

I guess a 3 hour drive would be ok for Thanksgiving or something, but driving 2-hour trips 7 times in 5 days was a bit much!

That lovely neighborhood is called "Doon Village", it's cute.


Mich - I do miss that lil pup!

Anonymous said...

Tsk, postal vote.

It sounds like you had a good time.

Anonymous said...

I think I remember your cousin Alyssa's loss a few years ago. I remember how difficult it was for her with little Jada on the way. It's amazing that all of your family get together this way. I'm just not that connected with my extendeds at all.

Anonymous said...

Awwwwww Jay-Jay looks as sweet and as happy as ever :o) xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Olivia said...

Frog - nice to see you here! Well, not enough time to do a postal vote, we thought we would be out of the airport in time, and traffic was not great.


Nikki - how sweet of you to remember.

I don't know how we always manage to jet around nowadays. I travelled the most of all of us growing up, so am the only one that's met all the cousins. But I think I'm closest to the ones in Canada and NY.

I'm sorry you aren't that close to your extended family. Not even cousins? Maybe that's why you are able to compensate with your cats and your lovely roomie!


Divaaaaaa - Oh I wish you could meet the little bebby boooyyyyy! He is an expert at pulling the heartstrings.

Jo said...

Long but lovely. Your family is gorgeous!!! My goodness, now I know where you get such good genes!

Your dress was lovely, but pesky belts are always a problem with me. I just swore off of them!

I know what you mean about family and the splendidness of being close and cuddly with them. It's like bathing in hot cocoa: the warm fuzziness of it all.

Stay warm, now!

Christopher said...

I love the fact that you are always out and about doing something and I love it when you post family pics. That pup JayJ would probably wind up missing if I was in the neighbourhood, what a smiler! The purse being called "oxblood" is common. My first pair of Doc Marten boots when I was 13 were called "Oxblood" due to the colour....tacky I know, but when you ad the word blood to it, how can you make it gorgeous in name? And as for your blogs being dear Livvie....keep writing, otherwise I would worry!

Olivia said...

Jo - thank you! Pah, knock it off with the genes, we're actually small-boned people lacking strong constitutions - many of my cousins and I have been comparing notes and we agree on this.

Bathing in hot cocoa...blimey if I did that there'd be more in my tum than in the tub!


Christopher - what I don't do is tell you about all the days where I do nothing. However, I'm glad you enjoy the long posts - I guess you can't point a finger since yours are marathon length!

Hahaha, yes Jayj is a very smiley pup. The minute he saw the camera he got up from where he was reclining and came up close, the lil poser!

Ooooooooooooooh oxblood shoes, yes please!!! My current patent leather red shoes are a fairly deep shade already (sangria or carmine) but oxblood would totally be sexeh! Man I do love red shoes.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing family you've got there, Ms. Olivia! I love the togetherness, pouring out of these pictures.

I also love the dress and handbag. You have quite a taste in apparel!

The dog is absolutely adorable! :)

Um Naief said...

i love these pictures. interesting that all you guys look similar.

jada has gotten big and is still so cute. love her blond hair! :)

love the dress and i agree... it is sorta oxblood... altho, i've never heard of that color. ;)

i'll tell ya a trick to the belt... to hold it temporarily, you can put a paperclip there at the buckle and it'll stay for a good while... not too bad if it's hidden by the buckle.

i'll post more in a while... naief is up from his nap :)

Um Naief said...

jayj is the cutest thing! i don't remember him, but i'll say this, he has the happiest eyes! if you're taking that photo... well, you can tell that he loves you!! it's so sweet.

love your cousin's house. we had basements in indiana, and many are as big as theirs w/ family rooms, play rooms and such. one friend's room was the entire basement. as a teenager, i thought that was really cool stuff.

i remember spending many a day or night in a basement w/ a badly bleeding nose and being terrified of the tornadoes coming. not sure why i got nose bleeds... maybe the air pressure. now, in thinking about it, i can remember many houses not having anything in the basement but maybe a washer/dryer... and being used as shelter only.

Palm Springs Savant said...

what a marvelous trip, worth the long journey, n'est pas? Your family are all so happy, it usyt have been a good time for all. Tat chocolate cake looked delicious by the way.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Speaking of having fun in Brooklyn, m'lady, did you see this? I'm not sure, but I think those people might be happy.

Hey, was that Fluff the Artist I saw in the background there? ;-)

Olivia said...

Fluff - thanks, I love my family. And dressing up is something I wish I could do more often, but not so much that it gets boring.


Um Naief - thanks for the belt tip, though I hope I never need to use it.

Eeeee, yes little Jayj with his happy eyes :)
I miss that kiddo.

I wonder if maybe your nosebleeds were not only the air pressure but also a spike in your blood pressure due to the stress of the situation?


Rick - oooh even better than the chocolate cake was the traditional rum-soaked black cake alongside it. Too bad it's not in the pic too.


Minstrel - well, Fluff did go to a big do around halloween, so maybe we should ask her if she was at that gathering in Bk!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Oh my oh my, why does all this sound familiar? Cousins, aunties, uncles, children, discussions [sometimes rather LOUD]...ah yes...sounds a lot like my family.

It's a great feeling, eh, that you belong to this great group of people?

You should see me grinning while reading this, it's such a HAPPY post!

Olivia said...

Hehe, yes there is nothing better than belonging to a loving, happy group of people that you know you will never lose because you are bound by blood.

I am so glad this post made you grin :)