I grew up in an extended family that was never close. There are the vague memories of playing with one of my cousins, but most of the relatives were people we visited once a year, during our obligatory Chinese New Year rounds. We hung out at my grandma's place once a week, and I remember the dinners she would cook, with piping hot peanut soup, curry and other dishes. I loved her prawn fritters, and the thick, black coffee she would brew.But as we grew up, we grew apart, and these days I hardly see any of my relatives. So family for us has been largely constrained to the nucleus of my parents and my brother.
Then I married the hubs, and family for him was so different: the cousins hung out together, had sleepovers at each other's houses, and the family gathered frequently. Distance was no matter, even though most had scattered to different parts of Malaysia or overseas, the blood ties held them together.
We went back to visit the hubby's family for the past week and a half, and the boys were able to experience that togetherness that came along with family. The noisy banter, the quarrels.
The chaos that came with having five children in one house.
The wonder of having two babies under one roof, with gummy smiles, fretfulness and soft baby cuddles.
The boys learnt to share and play. They learnt how to play nice, and how to deal with pushing and shoving.
We learnt how to live together, six adults and five children in a house with just one shower. (And there were four potties in total.)
There were huge messes made, which the grandparents happily helped to clean up. They read, they drew, they built bridges with cushions, and pretended to be explorers.
There was lots of play, together and apart. The boys wrestled. They spent hot afternoons splashing around in the garden, while getting bitten by mosquitoes. They had grandma rubbing Zambuk into those itchy red lumps.
We learnt how to give and take, to bite our tongues sometimes, to close our eyes to imperfections. They learnt how to navigate the stairs with care, avoiding the gaping holes in the railings.
We learnt to forgive. We learnt to tolerate. We tried our best to agree to disagree, to speak lovingly.
I was thankful for that time we could spend with the hubby's family. It gave me a glimpse of a different way, of a different togetherness that came from growing family ties that never break even with geographical distance. While it had its challenges (since we are all imperfect beings and we chafe in close quarters), I am thankful for that feeling of family the boys could have.
What are you thankful for?