Monday, May 9, 2016

A Family Reunion - Part 1

My parents were gypsies.
Dissatisfied with themselves and their lives, they always believed that life would be better somewhere else.
But as the old saying goes "No matter where you go, there you are........"
We moved often as I was growing up, and by the time I was 16 I had already lived in three countries and untold numbers of towns and homes.
When I was 16 my parents and all seven children moved to Canada.
By the time I was turning 18 my parents wanted to move back to Australia.
I did not want to go with them and I moved out of the house during my senior year in high school as they were preparing for the move back.
I worked midnight shift in a donut shop while finishing off my senior year, and then continued with the same donut shop right out of school.
My father had already moved back to Australia by that time to find a job, and I still clearly remember taking the train from Sarnia, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario, and hugging my mother and all six of my brothers and sisters goodbye.
My boyfriend at the time hugged me as I cried in the middle of the airport at the realization that they were gone.
By the time I was 19 years old the boyfriend and I had parted ways and I truly was alone in the country.
And I felt it. 
After floundering around for another six months I decided that it was time for me to go back to Australia as well.
But before I reluctantly headed back to the family I had on the opposite side of the world I decided to take a flight out to British Columbia.
I had a friend out there.
A young military guy that I had met a year prior invited me out to Victoria.
And so I flew out to Vancouver, took the ferry over to Victoria, and stayed with he, his wife and two young children.
The "plan" (if you could call it that) was to party hardy for a few months and then fly back to Australia.
Eight months later I was married to a military man who became the father of my two precious sons.
I never made it back to Australia, and even though my parents moved backwards and forwards a couple more times after that between Australia and Canada, they were on the opposite side of the country and I never saw them....................

When I said goodbye to my mother and six younger brothers and sisters, one of those siblings was my sister Lisa.
She was 13 years old at the time.  I was 18.
Even though we emailed and called very occasionally, we were not close.
Separated too young.
Separated by too much baggage, too many miles, too many oceans, too many years. 
And then one day about six months ago Lisa sent me an email and told me that she and her husband were going on an Alaskan cruise.
That they were visiting relatives of her husband in Toronto prior to the cruise.
Could they stop in Idaho to see me?
The whole notion took my breath away.
Too much baggage. 
Too many miles.
Too many oceans.
Too many years.
I am now 56 years old.  Lisa was going to be 51 this year.
It had never - not after all these years - occurred to me that I would ever see her again................

With a swirl of emotions and a racing brain, I said of course.
Of course.  
Please come to visit.  You are MORE than welcome.
Swirling emotions.
Racing brain.
Unexpected - completely and absolutely unexpected news.
And after taking some time to absorb the unexpected, I gradually became used to the idea that I would again see my sister after all these years.
I did not even know this woman. 
She was a complete stranger to me.
A 51 year old woman who I still pictured as a tall, stringy teenager with long, blond hair, long legs, short shorts, knee high socks, and an endless smile................

Over the next few months Lisa wrote to me regularly, asking about clothing and weather and food and other things, and I could feel the excitement growing for her as the day of their departure from Australia got closer.
In truth I did little preparation aside from FINALLY getting the spare bedroom set up (it's amazing how long you can put something off when you are without motivation and how quickly you can get something organized when you are motivated), buying extra groceries and cleaning the house the day before their arrival............

A couple of months ago I called Chris, told him that my sister and her husband Mick were coming to visit, and could he come down as well.
Baby, this may be your only chance to meet her.
Chris told me that he would try to make it, but that was as much of a commitment as I could get out of him.
Two days prior to Lisa and Micks' arrival I still had not heard back from Chris and I looked over at LC and said "He's not coming"...............

Last Sunday Chris called me and asked me to pick him up at the Idaho Falls Airport at 3pm on Monday.
I was picking Lisa and Mick up at the Idaho Falls Airport at 5:30 on Monday.
OK then.
Every summer I see pictures and hear stories about people's family reunions.
All the family members.  All the food.  The pictures.  
I knew nothing of these things.  
Family reunions were not something that was ever going to be a part of my life.
And then suddenly my son, my sister and my brother-in-law were all coming to visit.
It wasn't one of those huge to-do's that you hear so much about, but for me this was a huge deal.
 They were all coming here on May 2.
May 2 four years earlier I had been attending a funeral.
I think about those things.
Funny how your brain works, isn't it?.......................

For someone who takes so many pictures, I took few pictures that first day when everyone arrived.
Chris came in.  We hugged.  We talked.  We drove to a grocery store so he could take pictures of grocery prices for his girl friend who was curious how much things cost in Idaho Falls, Idaho compared to Calgary, Alberta.
On a very warm early evening we sat at a picnic table in the sunshine outside the sole terminal at the tiny airport in Idaho Falls, and chatted easily about nothing in particular.
God it was good to see him.
He looked good.  Healthy.  Confident.  Better than he had looked in a while.
And as we talked and laughed we heard over the PA system that Lisa and Micks plane had landed.
Oh geeze.............we rushed into the airport immediately in a mild form of panic, worried that we would not be in the right place at the right time to greet these world travelers and long lost relatives.
We weren't.
They were already wandering towards the luggage corral to pick up their bags, but thankfully I recognized Lisa immediately.
She looked very good.  
Still like the sister I remembered.  Still with the blond hair, the blue eyes, the very easy smile.
We were both much older.
Had lived two entire life times apart from each other.
But we were still sisters and I hugged her, and it felt good and very very strange to have a sister again.
I had never met Mick, but when Lisa introduced us we both smiled at each other and shook hands in friendly greeting.
Yes, I extended my hand.
God...........I had no idea how to do this family thing, but I was trying hard and hoping like hell that it would be a good visit............

While sitting at the picnic table outside the airport Chris had asked me what Lisa and Mick were like.
Truthfully, I answered that I had no idea.  
Lisa sounded like a happy, smiling, well adjusted and friendly woman on the phone.  
And I had never met Mick before.
So I honestly had no idea whether or not I would even like these two people that were now going to spend five days with us.
On the flip side, they did not know me either.  
They had traveled across the world to go on a cruise, but also to visit family in both Canada and the US.
It was a long-anticipated trip.
A trip of their life time, and they were taking a chance by coming to visit me, that part of their trip may not go well.
My family did not have a good history with..................each other...........
So five people, standing in an airport, who barely (if at all) knew each other, excitedly all greeted one another, walked out of the airport and loaded into a Tahoe.......................

By the time we got back to the house, introduced LC to my sister and her husband and got all three visitors settled it was 7pm, and Lisa, Kory and I promptly left the guys to cook dinner while we walked for a while on BLM land chatting easily about nothing in particular.
 I snapped the picture below of Mick and LC deep in conversation when we arrived back at the house.
A late dinner eaten on our ski top picnic table in the back yard and it was an early night for everyone.
It had been a long, tiring, stressful, exciting day.  
And everyone was very tired...............
The first full day that everyone was together I took all of one picture.
At the very top of the page is a picture of Mick, Chris and LC standing outside the Suburban.
Everyone woke up early and by mid morning I watched all three of these guys in both amusement and amazement.
They acted together as though they had known each other for years.
Everyone smiled easily, talked easily, and immediately fell into an easy rhythm of "guy talk".
After a quick breakfast they had loaded the Suburban with milk jugs full of water, plenty of guns and plenty of ammunition.
They were headed into the desert to shoot stuff up, and I inwardly smiled as I snapped that picture because they were like three little boys excited to go out on an adventure.
They had all officially hit it off.
While the guys shot things up in the desert Lisa, Kory and I walked around town while I shared all the gossip I knew about the few people who lived here.
She laughed as I entertained her with stories and I began to realize that I liked this woman.
I liked her very much..............

The rest of the day was filled with unexciting (and bonding) things.
The guys helped LC install a headache rack on his truck, and then helped him with a short in the speedometer in the Suburban.
Chris moved bales of hay from a neighbors house to our yard so I could set up a small archery range.
Lisa, Mick and I went to Blackfoot to sort out issues they had with their international phone, and then we went to Wal-mart.
Just as Chris had done the previous day, Lisa and Mick were fascinated by price comparisons between Australia and the US.
Lisa spent an inordinate amount of time choosing which coffee she wanted to buy, and both were fascinated by the fact that you could buy guns in department stores in America.
By this time I knew that they were both worn out.
During their visit to Toronto they had spent a lot of time on the go - visiting Niagara Falls, visiting a cabin, visiting the CN Tower.
All huge fun.  
All interesting for tourists.  
All cumulatively tiring.
By the end of that first full day I knew that we were going to have to pace ourselves.  
This couple still had weeks of travel to go and needed some rest.
I would make suggestions to them, but I would let THEM take the lead on how much or how little they wanted to do.
Already I knew that they loved the quiet of where we lived...............

I had thought that Chris would not be impressed with the house.
His girlfriend owned a 5 bedroom, $400,000 house in the city of Calgary.
We owned an old, three bedroom house in the middle of nowhere that cost.................well............not $400,000.
He loved the house.
It was bigger than his girlfriends house.
The rooms were bigger.  The yard was bigger.  And he loved the fact that we had so much freedom to do anything we wanted in this tiny, isolated part of the world.
I didn't expect that reaction.  
Chris kept wandering around the house and the yard in amazement at what we had for the price we had paid.  
And I was pleased........................ 

The rest of that first full day was filled with cooking, eating, talking, laughing, relaxing, movie watching, and one more early night.
Everyone liked each other, and there was a friendliness and comfort in each others' company that I had never expected.
It had never occurred to me that we would all find a rhythm with each other so quickly and so easily, but something special was happening here and all I could do was stand back and watch it and enjoy it.
We made plans to go fishing at Mud Lake the next day.....................

An old empty building close to Mud Lake.
I snapped this picture while wandering with Kory, and while waiting for an American, an Australian and a Canadian to get their fishing licenses................
Taken inside the gas station and Karin was once again on a photograph-taking-roll................
My sister checking out the water temperature.
It was still cold.
Summers in Idaho happen slowly and begrudgingly and weather is still all over the map.
Still.  In May.
Cold.  Hot.  Wet.  Dry.  Windy.  Calm.  
With night time temperatures still close to freezing even the first week in May.
This day (that started off very cool) would soon turn into a very sunny and hot day.
A perfect day to be at the lake.............
The guys heading out onto the water................
Click on any picture and it will pull up a slide show of enlarged pictures...............
LC and I did not make it to Mud Lake last year at all.
In fact (because we dedicated so much time to helping an elderly widow sell her home and most of her belongings) we did not do a whole lot last summer.
And so I was pleased to have the opportunity to get back to Mud Lake again.
It is a beautiful place.
A place where thousands of migrating birds come to rest during their journeys in both the fall and the spring.
A place where a moose had crossed in front of my path while I kayaked a year and a half ago.
A place where we had camped two summers ago.
A place filled with water and trees and mountains and silence.
A beautiful place...........

While LC, Mick and Chris happily fished together me, Lisa and Kory walked, talked and snapped pictures.
My dog walked off leash on this day.
The first time she had ever walked off leash at Mud Lake.
She was older now.  A little more settled.   I trusted her more (but silently prayed that she would not see a bunny, give chase and speed away from me.......).
Pictures taken along the way.................
Warm enough to finally lose the jackets, and Lisa enjoying walking and picture taking................
Big Butte and the Twin Buttes visible in the distance...............
Two picture taking fools....................
My puppy did wonderfully during our walk, and I smiled often as I watched Kory continually climb down to the water to drink or wade into the lake.
She was loving it, and I loved the freedom that she had (but I kept fingers crossed that my dog was continue to stay close - I had spent many many hours over the course of the past two years tracking down a dog who both loved to run and loved to chase)
So far so good....................
Kory did indeed run after bunnies.
But not far.
And she quickly came back.
Arriving back at the campground and boat ramp...................
You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.........Frederick Buechne

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