Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting the Family

When I was growing up (way back in the dark ages), Sunday was the day to visit family.  And most Sunday's found us on the road traveling to my aunts and uncles and then as I got older to my married brother and sisters.  When I think back on these visits what I find most interesting is that my father was the one who insisted and orchestrated these visits. It was as though he had a mental list of the family members that he felt responsible for and cycled through visits to their homes each time his schedule allowed for a visit.  Most of my extended family lived in New York City or the surrounding areas, so a visit was an all day affair from our New Jersey home place.  There was a particular etiquette to these visits also.  You never went empty handed.  We usually made a stop at a bakery and brought some type of pastry.  You never visited over a meal time although if an invitation to stay for a meal was extended you accepted and you always accepted the invitation to have coffee or a drink.  Occasionally you actually brought a light meal with you if you felt that feeding you would be a hardship for the family.  Sometimes you brought an item that you thought might help the family in question.  And there is no doubt in my mind that my father probably slipped some cash to certain family members who were having difficult times financially.  Most importantly you didn't overstay your welcome.  Now once these visits extended to my own siblings, the rules changed a bit.  You still brought something but often you stayed longer and usually a meal was prepared for us.  These visits had more of a parental feel to them.  After my father died my mother continued to visit us all.  I lived a days ride away but she visited me faithfully about twice a year until she was 79 years old.  Then she felt that the eight hour drive was more than she could safely handle.

Family also visited us at times.  So there was a lot of visiting going on and a lot of opportunity to get to know the extended family.  My mother was always ready for company and felt that she had to have something to offer should someone decide to drop by. 

I sort of wish we still visited like this.  I hope my sons develop into "visitors" of each other as they get older.  But, they live pretty far apart and they didn't see this modeled for them (except by their grandparents) while they were growing up.  But it was a simpler time back then and it seems like we had the time to sit around and talk and get to know each other.  Truth be told, I was sometimes bored with the whole exercise as a child since it meant countless hours in the car driving to a household that often didn't have any members my age and where conversations sometimes happened in a language that I never learned.  But looking back from the vantage point of my years, I'm very glad for all the visiting that we did and feel fortunate to have had a father who felt it was important to maintain relationships with his family.  Too bad I didn't realize the significance of this earlier on.  Perhaps I would have done better at passing on the tradition of family visits.

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