C. and the kids and I went to Winnipeg for a week. I was born in Winnipeg but didn't grow up there. Both of my parents did and most of my extended family is still there, so I tend to refer to it as my ancestral home town. Doran has been a couple of times on his own, Zara went with me to a cousin's wedding (but she was a baby so it doesn't really count) and Kendra had never been.
Because I've been estranged from my parents since they disowned me when I came out at age 19, and because they insisted that the rest of the extended family ostracise me as well, I didn't really have much connection with family or family places for a long time. After Doran's birth, some of the relatives did defy my parents, and I have had an ongoing relationship with one branch of the family for some time, and they are the ones we were visiting.
We met at my grandparents' cottage at the beach: Pleasant View Cottage in Winnipeg Beach. My Zaida bought the land for $600 in 1964 (paid over several years, because he didn't have $600), hired someone to put up the frame, and then built it with his bare hands. In recent years a couple of rooms have been added. It's a lovely, homey place with lots of room for hanging out and a big yard with a porch and a playhouse and swings. It's across the street from the beach.
There were 19 of us there for Canada Day weekend - my brother and sister and their families came up from the Twin Cities and aunt and two cousins and their families were in residence along with us. It was a lovely long weekend. We spent a lot of time at the beach; we barbecued a lot; played board games; went for walks; fished off the pier at Gimli; poked around beach town shops; and talked and talked and talked. I got to meet in person for the first time a cyberfriend of mine who lives in Winnipeg and whom I've known online for about 15 years, and her kids, which was a real treat. Doran had some sort of allergic reaction followed by an ear infection, so I got to experience Canadian medicine again :-/. The kids had a great time, and got a sense of connectedness with my side of the family from it, I think. I told my ex afterwards that when we were first having children this is something I never thought I'd be able to offer them.
On Tuesday, the sibs returned to the Twin Cities and things got a lot quieter at the beach. On Wednesday, we packed up the cottage and moved on to Winnipeg proper, where we also had a lovely time. We saw the new Superman movie, went "glow bowling", listened to way too much Abba (my little cousins love it and infected Zara), did a great boat tour of Winnipeg (Fun Fact to Know and Tell: Winnipeg is the third largest rail center in North America, after Chicago and Boston), saw a good IMAX movie (Deep Sea with Johnny Depp), ate in my relatives' restaurant, did some shopping, visited the places I remember visiting as a child, and talked and talked and talked. The kids all had a great time. Kendra's quite ready to move there :-). I don't think she will, but we might send her there on her own, or her and Zara together, another summer.
I found out while there that my father is not doing well. He has pretty advanced Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home. My mother is feeling very alone, my aunt tells me. I wish there were something I could do to help, but really can't.
One thing I was struck by this past week is how different my life is from that of my aunts and cousins. They've lived all their lives in one place. Everywhere they go they run into people they know - as do I - but they run into people they have known all their lives, which I never do. They see people they went to school with or whose parents they know, etc. And they frequent the same places they did as children.
My parents moved away and didn't have that experience, but they regularly go back to Winnipeg, so they have had the experience of returning to the place they grew up and seeing all those people and places.
By contrast, I have neither. I don't live where I grew up and I never return there...
It was a lovely vacation and a really sustaining, nurturing family experience. I'm so grateful to be able to have that in my life, for my sake and for my children's.
I was offline for close to a week. I've been trying to catch up on my friends' list, but probably won't go back more than a couple days.