A Week of Many Happenings

Posted on 15 July 2007

The past week – what with celebrations and travel – has been so busy that I’ve barely had time to think, let alone digest the many happenings. After my sweet Gill arrived at the airport, we returned home to my brother, niece, and Rob. At the same time, another sister arrived and several cousins from Connecticut who stayed at other sisters’ houses. On Saturday, a number of them left for Whistler and Gill and I were able to have a day to ourselves. It felt good walking down the street arm in arm with my baby. We pampered ourselves with manicures and pedicures, stopped for a lunch of salads (I always eat healthy with Gill), and walked some more. We talked. We shopped a little and kept on talking, catching up on how we feel about our lives. I love the ease and openness of our relationship. I love how my daughter loves me.

The next evening, when all had returned from Whistler, we went to my niece’s – the eldest grandchild of my parents, the daughter of my older sister – for a barbecue. It turned out to be an emotional evening, a sort of “Home for the Holidays”, where I found myself thrown back into my nuclear family’s dynamics where voices were raised and tears flowed. And it was my brother who saved the evening. He is a quiet man who feels comfortable putting his arms around his sisters and mother and telling us that he loves us.

I have not been around him for any length of time for years – I am nine years older than him – and I was glad he stayed at our house. He is a gentle man, thoughtful, easy-going, and listens to his daughter who, for most of her years, has been raised by only a father.

I always find myself lost in large groups of people, even family. There are just too many people to talk to, too much stimulation, and I retain little. It’s like going to the Louvre and looking at art. By the end of several hours, I might remember one painting or statue but, come to think of it, it doesn’t really matter: I am happy to be overwhelmed. The evening of my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary celebration felt something like this. There were around forty guests at Anatoli Souvlaki, a Greek restaurant that turned Irish for an evening with the help of the Celtic trio, Ballyhooley – who were quite wonderful, playing nine different instruments: my mother hummed and sang along to many of their numbers.

As I was the chief organizer, at my father’s request, I had to stay on my toes – arrive early and help arrange the tables, welcome the band, cue them when to play and when to take a break, make sure everyone knew where to get a drink, where to sit, exchange words with the head waiter about when to serve the food, the champagne, and cake, collect money from my siblings, and pay for the music and food at the end of the evening. Rob thankfully set up the projector and screen and played the slide show I had put together of my parents’ 60 years together, featuring as many of the guests as possible. I was definitely overwhelmed and relaxed only for short periods of time during the evening.

My mother and father appeared to enjoy themselves. (I hope they did.) They arrived after most of the guests, looking like royalty as they were escorted into the room on the arm of the head waiter and hostess. Everyone cheered. And the conversation and drinks flowed. And the food came. And the music played on.

And then the entertainment began. My baby sister (with the help of another sister) had cleverly written a rap song incorporating many of my parents sayings when we were children – like “just wait till your father comes home” and “if you mum me one more time” – and so the six of us got on stage, caps on backwards or sideways, and happily made fools of ourselves.

The siblings entertain

My Mum, Dad, Gael then made speeches and since all three are or were involved in politics, they are easy on a stage with a microphone and spoke well and were applauded but… I don’t really know how to explain this. The evening somehow became public as if for a general audience which seemed strange to my ears as all present were family… and even I, who hate to stand in front of a crowd of people and speak and yet did to present my mother and father with my labour of love of the last month – a bound book that included photographs and stories of my parents’ marriage – forgot that I was speaking to my beloved nieces and nephews and children and friends and felt awkward. Perhaps this is just me?

Yvonne's gift

The evening went so quickly. What do I remember of it now? Dancing with my father who looked very dapper – like a rich tycoon. Looking at my mother and thinking how beautiful she was in a shimmering top that we chose together. Talking to my eldest son. Missing my younger one. Watching my daughter, happy, arm around her “lova”. The music of Ireland. The chatter of voices. My two little nieces observing the family from the stairs.

Two nieces

The next day, I prepared for France. The next I flew to Toronto. The next a full day of travel to my small village. So here I am, sleeping strange hours but feeling content, enjoying the solitude.

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