Sibelius, deposited in the form of a rain-drenched, cold pile of miserable man yesterday, was aglow with good cheer as we celebrated Thanksgiving and Hanukkah at his family home today. With the candles and the feast, with tales of little Rachel’s latest scrapes and Elisabeth’s lace exploits, it was a wonderful evening. I was glad to be a part of their gathering – few things are as warm as family. Sibelius seems to have taken to that idea himself, seeing how obsessed he was with making sure that everything went well and that everyone was taken care of. When told to relax a bit and enjoy the evening, he said something about the importance of family and the rarity of such gatherings. I suppose living alone might have brought home to him the realisation, as it does for many.
Little Rachel, while the table was being set, played Scrabble with me. She lost thrice and was very infuriarted. I proposed that the penalty be walking on me (hard). She agreed cheerfully. Oh, dear God, after two months of chronic back ache brought on by that fracture, it was a relief to have a free massage provided by her as she did a trampoline gig on my back. Strangely, some of the gathering looked disapproving when I asked her to go harder. Be that as it may, today is the first day after that much bemoaned about fracture that my spine feels straightened out and proper. Bless the girl!
Family is a special, strange thing. For me, it has been often a source of great pain, distress and misery. As a girl growing up in a family that favoured chauvinism to an unhealthy degree, it was a new black world that opened up for me when I reached puberty and made the transition from sweet innocent to young woman. The consequences for me, when it came to family, were disastrous in terms of self-confidence. Support for educating a female was non-existent and made worse by the crass terms in which they spoke of an attempt by my parents to ensure I was educated.
Today, when sipping white wine and lying sprawled on the old, worn, brown carpet before their fireplace, speaking with Sibelius who sat primly on the sofa nearby, suffering Rachel trying to tame my hair into shape, declining Elisabeth’s orders to eat more dessert, I thought of family. I resented deeply those in the family who had cost me much in terms of opportunity, confidence and the right to exist as an individual, as opposed to existing as a doll as all the dolls on the marriage market exist.
Today, though, I am thankful for those in the family who gave me the chances when I was too young to find my own. I am thankful for the love that carried me through for years. I am thankful for the love that carries me through now. I am most thankful to myself, though, for having taken the few chances I had, for not having given up despite much misery, for having treated myself as well as I could, given the little I had.
I still lack pennies. The future is uncertain as I try to transition from one stage into another this year. The trees are bare but for empty nests holding on tenaciously despite the wind, the days are cold and I must soon leave.
Today, I am thankful.