Wednesday 4 December 2019

This is Us :)

It is Thanksgiving. My brother and his family are in town and we are joined for a few hours by my cousin and her husband and their grown-up kids. Stories fly around, fast and furious, some old, some I had never heard of. Family members near and distant are discussed threadbare. Peals and howls of laughter periodically punctuate the conversation. The children flit in and out of the discussion but mostly they just look bemused (in the case of the older kids, amused). Every now and then I glance at my husband, wondering whether he feels bored with all this family talk. However, I feel not a smidgen of guilt, having been a patient witness at similar gatherings of his family.

Later, in the family WhatsApp group, photos are posted. My father starts a thread reminiscing about the family home in erstwhile Madras and the many happy memories associated with it. Cousins, aunts and uncles jump in with their anecdotes about the house, sundry family members, vacations, weddings and other seminal events. 

Reading through it all, I can vicariously experience that long-gone lifestyle, a house and life teeming with extended family and friends, brimming with hospitality and generosity. Over the years, like all other families, this one too has gone through ups and downs. Its members now live far in time, distance and thought from that house in Madras, but their shared history and collective memories have woven a rich and unique tapestry that binds and cocoons generations of us, whether we are conscious of it or not.

One of my fondest childhood memories is lying down between my parents at bedtime, and drowsily listening to them talk over the days' events. For years (thanks to never having my own bedroom as long as I stayed with my parents!), I dropped off to sleep listening to the soft tones of two people recapping their day, discussing family matters and indulging in gentle gossip.

I'm in my forties, yet even now, I slide easily into the old ways. Sinking down onto the cool floor or onto the bed during afternoon siesta time, only for the pleasure of hearing my parents tell some stories. 

I think of the stories I tell my kids. About how I grew up, places, people and incidents that shaped me and made me what I am today. I think of similar stories my kids hear from their dad. I think of the stories that we laugh about amidst our close friends, the ones that have survived endless repetition. Doubtless, we'll continue to tell them well into our old age. I think of the new stories we started weaving after we became parents that are now a part of my children's memories. 

Family stories are free, portable, revealing, and inspiring. 
Stories capture the narrative arc of our lives. But more than that. They are us. And we are nothing without our stories.

Every now and then, I will sleep in Y's bedroom. Before we turn off the light, she will ask "Can we talk?" I acquiesce even if I am sleepy. She's only asking us to make more stories!