My geographical comfort zone is relatively slim – twenty-three or so degrees north or south of the equator being where I have spent most of my life. Why then am I currently at 54.66° north on the wild coast of Donegal, Ireland, a spit away from the Atlantic thrashing in on the jagged rocks and admittedly very beautiful rugged beaches?
A dispersed family – that’s why. Throw in a couple of dear friends and my holiday fate, or do I mean fête, was sealed.
Don’t you think it’s time we all had a Christmas together? We could all meet up in Ireland, the Someone I married many years ago suggested.
Why not? I responded, soaking in the warm Texan Fall evening while enjoying a tangy Sauvignon Blanc on the terrace. It’ll be fun, and who knows when we will all get a chance to get together again. As expatriates we agree to things in moments of rash bonhomie that in the sober light of day we would at least give a second thought to.
Loosing connectivity is one of the major topics up for discussion when the opportunity to cross a continent or an ocean to follow a dream or a job presents itself. The concerns that children won’t know grandparents, that cousins won’t know cousins, that sibling’s lose their closeness are all valid points but as many who have made the break know, those connections do not need to be lost.
WCFs are those few times a year, or sometimes over a far greater span, when families connect. We can live in the same town as a sister, or the same state as a brother or the same country as a parent and yet only see them once or twice a year, if that often. Weddings, Christenings and Funerals, the WCFs in question, are in any event often the bane of family gatherings: Auntie Thelma muddles the innocuous punch with the alcoholic bowl and topples over whilst sucking on a piece of apple seeped in liquor; Henry whacks Thomas as the ‘friendly’ jousting becomes more than playful; and accusations fly, She always did like you better than me! type comments can sour an evening very quickly.
No WCFs for us in 2011 so I am for the year’s ABCs, Anniversaries, Birthdays and Christmas, hunkered down for the festive season, staying in a house belonging to friends who in some ways are closer than family; they having known us in various outposts around the world and therefore share our memories. This particular couple have been in essence an unofficial aunt and uncle to our children. You know the sort: the ones who spoil the children when little and then magically become their friends, as well as yours, as you all age. So, precious indeed.
Added to the mix will be brothers-in-law, children now grown, friends of said children and a few other parents thrown in as well, and everyone with various partners. Of course my granddaughter will also be present and at the toothless age of five months sure to be the gurgling centre of attention.
It is because of them all, friends and relations, that I am sitting shrouded in layers of clothing on a dank and frankly rather dismal afternoon. I almost said evening but that would be a lie – it’s just that it gets dark so damn early. And it is because of them all that this Christmas and New Year will be another memory shared over the countries, and the years; testament that connectivity need not be lost. And it is because of them that I have promised not to whinge and whine about the seeping cold, which at the end of the festivities will send me back to more tropical climes.
But as Dean Martin sang, memories are made of this. So instead of a Sauv Blanc I’ll have a whisky mac to keep me warm along with happy times in front of a snapping fire with friends and family, or maybe it should be a Bushmills.