Four morsels of humanity, four still small yet rapidly growing human souls and I was so glad to see all of them together. Even just this once.
It is a sad fact of life that as the years go by and family members put up their own separate families, it is becoming more and more difficult to find the opportunities and occasions to justify getting the extended family together in one place in order to touch base and just spend time in each other's company. This is especially true in families like us separated not only by distance but by time zones as well.
But last week, except for two siblings in the United States, we all did get together and it was an especially poignant reunion of sorts. My mother was leaving for another short visit to the U.S. right after the Holy Week and the gathering was, in one sense, a send off.
I was especially gratified to see three of my nephews and my one niece together again (the other niece and one other nephew live in the U.S.). Not yet having children of my own, I miss them dearly and any chance to be with them all together is indeed a rare treat, one unfortunately that may be getting more difficult to arrange as they are rapidly growing up and soon will be living increasingly separate lives.
Binjo, at 14 years, is already the quintessential teenager. He is struggling like so many of his peers in finding his own place and identity in the world yet the incipient anger and frustrations of the adolescent years surging like tempests in others his age is thankfully muted in him. His capacity to find joy in life and relish the company of his cousins and extended family, to receive and give affection while restrained and downplayed is still strong in him. Beneath the thin veneer of growing sophistication and facade of teenage indifference is still the wide eyed, impressionable and exuberant child I once knew and held in my arms.
Josh, at 12 years, is already, despite his tender years, a sensible, well grounded and well mannered young man. That does not mean that he is perfect. He too has his foibles and idiosyncrasies but probably would have, among his cousins, the best chance of getting through the storms of adolescence relatively unscathed. But then silent waters do run deep and Josh can be as deep and silent as the best of them.
Muriel who recently had her 10th birthday, is the proverbial dragon in the family. Female she may be but she has enough personality and spite to overshadow all her male cousins put together. She can vent out her anger with fighting words like a fire monster spitting out flames. She can also kick and punch with gusto when provoked. But she can also be, when the mood upon her, endearing, cuddly and affectionate. Hot or cold or just warm, she remains always more than a handful.
Iam , although 13 years old already, is the darling of the family. He remains what he has always been, a sweet, innocent child in an already young man's body. He is the real Peter Pan, the embodiment of the best of the child that used to be inside all of us, fated never to grow old, jaded and cynical, instead he happily views the world through rose colored glasses and rejoices in the magnificent vistas and panoramas often he alone can see. His presence is always a joy to be savored, a spot of sunshine on cloudy days.
I don't really know what the future really holds for all of them but one thing is very clear. They, in many ways, are our family's investment in the future. They represent what is left of our faith and optimism in tomorrow. Thus by getting them together, we are like the miser greedily counting and rejoicing in his hoarded treasures and rejoicing in their priceless splendor.
It has been said that to live a joyful and happy life, one must count his blessings and not his misfortunes, to rejoice in the good things and disregard the bad. I then look and marvel at my mother's grandchildren, all four of then plus the two that may be far away but still with us in spirit and bound to us across the vast distance by mutual affection. Then I realize that despite of all of life's bitter disappointments and its daunting challenges, we remain truly and essentially blessed.