Every time I travel, I come home amused and jealous about the things that are different in other places. Shop and office hours in the places we visited seemed more geared to balancing family and work, and there was good bread everywhere. TV carried news about the whole world, and cricket match scores appeared in running text at the bottom of the screen. The days in Politica's Ancestral Homeland were gloriously long and light.
But on this trip, mostly what I marveled at is something they have in Ancestral Homeland that we just can't find here: tremenninger, or second cousins for Curious Girl. CG is one of 13 children in her generation of the family. 3 of those 13 live in southeast Asia, but were back in Ancestral Homeland for several weeks while we were there, and 9 of them live within 10 minutes of each other and their grandparents in Ancestral Homeland. CG was just in seventh heaven getting to meet and spend time with these cousins (who range in age from almost 4 to 24). They showered her with affection. I have photos of almost all of them carrying her, pushing her on swings, taking her for walks or bowling trips, holding her on the boat, and just snuggling her. CG turned into a wholly different child, in some respects. She deserted us immediately upon sighting any of the cousins, and she spent hours just following them around, looking up at them adoringly. One of her cousins helped put her to bed almost every night (getting her into her PJs, teeth brushed, story read; a cousin can't replace a mother for the comfort of falling alseep, but can do just about everything else). Another cousin took her on her first solo shopping trip (to a candy store! where she got two packages of gum! with her own money from Politica's first cousin!) and also shared her makeup with CG and fixed her hair in a beautiful bun. At home, Curious Girl looks to us first, middle, and last as a play companion, but over there, we hardly rated.
"I wish we lived in Ancestral Homeland," CG told me this morning. "It's so fun in Ancestral Homeland." A bit of a "nanny state," Politica thinks, what with government regulations about things like having to carry a fluorescent vest in the car for use in tire-changing situations, but still, a state where we have a large and loving extended family: I could get used to that. One night at dinner we had 29 people over, and kids and grownups just circulated around in different groupings, talking and laughing. The kids are in and out of each others' houses. Curious Girl loved it, and some of my best memories from the trip are of seeing her small hand in the hand of a bigger cousin, or seeing her smiling up with admiration and love for the bigger girls she had only imagined until now.
So I have stories to tell about cousins and travel, stories to tell about a new school year about to start, stories to tell about the two-week-old kittens our cousins have. But at the moment, I still have some unpacking to do, and a new resolution to declutter the house, so I am off to put some things away and fill a bag or box with recycling or pass-alongs. It's good to be home, even if I'm partly joining Curious Girl in wishing that we did live a little closer to her tremenninger. I do like our small family, and while the size of our family is something I am mostly happy with, being in a bigger family makes me wistful.
It's a good thing, coming home from holiday with new things to ponder.