I told myself to put more effort in recalling positive experiences from my childhood. What are my warmest moments? Fragments for which I am grateful? A short search and I realize an unmistakable answer. Time spent with extended family. (Before I morphed into a lonely teenager. Once a hormonal teen I became more self conscious and struggled with my emotions.) Even though I was shy, unlike I thought in my previous post about limited memories as she grows, I loved family time as a kid.
I cherished going camping with my mom's parents. Oma and Opa would drive us to the microscopic mountains way off in the distance until the sheets of rock towered over us like solid arms that would entrap us and hide us from the sun forever. Oma and Opa would take us to the lake where I would play for hours until I was burnt to a crisp. We would go to the scorching hot pools and relax. And in the evening we'd always have a fun game of Yatzee or cards or Tile Rummy. We listened to Dutch music and ate chocolate on toast. Many times these trips would include my brother and me playing with cousins in the sand and water.
At Oma's house we would slide down the lush carpeted stairs. Play with Tupperware dish sets. Make patterns in the soft fabric of the couch. Run around the humongous hill in front of her house.
I also went camping with my dad's parents. We would enjoy home made pop from their syrup mix and carbonating machine. We would go bike riding, go out in the boat, and I think we went 4X4ing. I remember watching the hummingbirds. Playing pool. Listening to songs on the electric keyboard. Cuddling with the dog.
I have distant memories of visiting my dad's sister. I remember macrame and horses. Laughing so hard with my cousin that we spat milk out our noses.
I recall our mom and us moving in with her brother. Sleeping in the basement and worrying about spiders. Having a kitten that would try to follow me to school.
I treasure the unique relationship with each family member. I cannot wait to watch my daughter get to know her large family. Trips downtown and lunches out with her Oma. TV-table barbecues in her grandparents' back yard. Traveling hours to spend time with people who love her and will miss her. Bonding with cousins at the pool or lake, or while feeding the ducks or running and dancing to a band in the plaza.
I know that so many of my own relationships were short lived or sporadic. Nowadays it is so much easier to keep in touch, even when far away. We don't just have phone, at better value than when I was young, but also easy video contact. We can keep everyone informed so that when reunions do happen we can easily fall into our comfortable play and chatter. I always show my daughter pictures and tell her names of the special people in her life.
Unfortunately, my step daughter and her children will be moving away. I love watching our children get all excited noisily playing with cardboard boxes, making helter-skelter obstacle courses, and running around with the dog. I love how my daughter inquisitively stares at her energetic niece who is five years her senior. How the older one is so concernedly protective and helpful.
It is time to load up on carefree trips to the park and swimming pool. Decorate the street with chalk. Accompany each other to church. Take millions of pictures of them hanging out in forts and having meals. We will have to make most of the time now to build momentous memories and help them anticipate being reunited.
Now that I look back at what I thought was a crappy childhood and see enjoyable family time, I am going to help my daughter prioritize family. Even if they have busy lives or have considerable differences. I will plant family seeds in her heart. Help her be thankful for these permanent ties. We will invest in family time and encourage our daughter to stay in touch.
Maybe I should start a family-trip-fund jar.