Rather than pondering on technique or news items or TV programmes today, I find myself thinking about the meaning of family. Last Bank Holiday weekend, we had a day at the beach with my brother and his family and my mother and stepfather. It was a proper British day - lovely weather one minute, blowy and grey the next. We dug sandcastles, played beach games, paddled, ate sandy food from the beach bucket barbeque and went home tired but happy. It was really lovely.
The dynamics of our family are like many modern families - complicated. My parents are divorced and my mother remarried. My brother is married with one child. His wife and my mother's husband are both Scottish (with families there still), I am married to a man born in England but to wholly Irish parents who then proceeded to retire back to where they had come from. My stepfather has a daughter so I also gained a sister in the last twenty years!
Something like a day at the beach together is a big exercise in diary coordination. We all live in various locations round the country and there are also the in-laws to be accommodated. My sister-in-law has a number of siblings and elderly parents; my in-laws are very infirm and cannot travel but this means that we have to travel long distances to visit and there increasingly frequent emergencies associated with their health. I could go on... you get the picture and I am sure can relate to this very modern day stress.
It is often said that family is losing importance in this day and age. Actually I think, in many ways, we are more desperate to hang onto family ties. We feel that we should keep up Skype with those abroad, post on social media, send photos by all means, talk every week on the phone and so on. We put ourselves under pressure because the means are there to stay in touch so we feel that we should use them, wondrous inventions as all these communication devices are.
When we look at our family trees though, it can often be seen that families who did end up living at great distances apart most probably did not see their loved ones more than once or twice again - if ever, in the case of emigrants - and more than likely did not expect to do so. Emigration or joining the armed forces meant leaving for years, if not a lifetime. Yet now the pressure is on to keep in touch and visit regularly even if you are on opposite sides of the world. Friends who emigrated to New Zealand come back for three weeks and fill the entirety with visits, whilst feeling that they must apologise to those whom they have not reached!
There is also the new found interest for family history, spurred on by the availability of online records. We most probably can find out more about what happened to our ancestors than any previous generation could. Family myths can be examined in great detail! A great bonding exercise.
I think what I am trying to say is that maybe family ties are not as under threat as commentators think. The ties are more complicated and obviously different to what has gone before but they are still there and learning about what and who has gone before can help to define them.
It is just a shame that, in this frenetic age, one finds one's self having to have conversations in August about where everyone will be spending Christmas... The family ties I will take but talking about Christmas whilst packing for the beach is just wrong! Necessary but wrong!
[Incidentally, our newest family member - the puppy mentioned in a previous post - is settling in well. Just need to fine tune the duties of each family member or there may be another divorce on our tree!]