I was raised by a biyuda (widow) who was so busy raising and feeding four kids by herself, that we didn’t have much time to visit our relatives.
My mother, the strong feisty little lady was too shy to ask for help from our extended family. She said other people have their own problems to deal with and she didn’t want to badger others with her struggles. So she provided for us four, put food on the table, and sent all of us to school on her own.
In the process because we were so busy surviving we lost touch with so many of our relatives, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I grew up with cherished albeit faint memories of time spent with aunts and cousins when I was little of playtimes at the beach, of vacations in their homes. I thought our connection was lost forever.
When my mother died, I saw many of these aunts, uncles, and cousins come together to grieve with us. These were familiar faces I haven’t seen in awhile. Faces my children are seeing for the first time.
A year after my mother’s death I started introducing my kids to my extended family. At night I would show them pictures of my aunts and uncles, of my cousins and my cousin’s children.
I also tried my best to reconnect with them even just online. I realized that now that I don’t have parents they are all the family I have left.
My son was so elated to find out that like his classmates he still has lots of grandmothers left, he has many grandfathers, numerous titas and titos and more cousins than he can count with his tiny fingers.
He would often ask me about my cousins, and memorize their names. He would look forward to spending time with my extended family, and get all excited while with them. He felt his family’s a little bit complete again even after losing Lulay (my mom).
A few days ago he came home so happy to tell me that his teacher had asked them to draw their families on Christmas cards. He said he drew the biggest family in class.
“I drew all my cousins and titas and titos mama,” he beamed.
He told his classmates about his cousins “I have a big big Kuya (big brother), he’s so big you know and he taught me how to play Minecraft,” he told one classmate.
“I watched Coco with my cousin and my tito and tita,” he told another.
“I have two baby cousins, they’re so cute. One is so squishy and chubby and cutie but she went home already with her mom dad her home is far awar,” he once told our neighbor.
He’s so happy, that his Christmas this year although without his beloved grandmother is being spent with more family members than he can count.
To me this is what made my children’s Christmas celebration extra special this year.