Reconnecting with long lost relatives is always full of fun and surprises.
WHEN I was growing up, I always thought I had fewer paternal relatives compared with my maternal side. During my school days, the family tree which my teacher asked us to draw would always start from my paternal grandparents and there would be nothing else beyond that.
Dad rarely talked about his side of the family so all the while, I thought my grandfather was the only child and that Dad only had two other siblings – an elder adopted sister and an elder brother.
As the typical patriarch and matriarch of our small family, Dad and Mum would usually be our family’s representatives when it came to weddings and funerals of friends and relatives. When Dad passed on, his role was passed on to me. It was only then that I realised how extensive my paternal side of the family tree was. I didn’t even know that I had nieces and nephews that are as old as I am!
The more weddings and funerals I attended, the more I began to uncover, little by little, who my cousins, uncles and aunties were from Dad’s side of the family. Some I met only for the first time during a particular dinner or funeral.
Unlike Mum, Dad seldom talked about his side of the family, hence, very little was known about those relatives. Even when he did, the stories were confined to those of him and his siblings, and his parents; nothing beyond that. He didn’t have many photos either.
We learnt bits and pieces of the puzzle, here and there, through snippets of conversations with my aunty, Dad’s sister, who sometimes dropped by for visits. Until today, I still love having my aunty come over for a visit; it was interesting to listen to stories about their childhood when they were growing up with some of their cousins, even if the stories were repeated many times.
Mum, on the other hand, loves to talk about her family, especially her childhood. She has albums full of old photos of her early days. Sometimes, it became a little dramatic, especially when my maternal uncles and aunties came over for a visit. The reminiscing would go on and on like there was no tomorrow. Although I haven’t met most of my ancestors, the images of them live vividly in my mind, thanks to all the descriptions which mum supplied.
We grew up with stories of Mum’s childhood and easily identified relatives from her side from the family, even those who were distantly related. Through her story-telling, I learnt specific salutations that were supposed to be accorded to family elders.
Mum’s stories were so lively that I could almost imagine how each and every one of my ancestors carried themselves during their heydays.
I never dreaded attending weddings, especially those of my paternal relatives, because it always presented a chance for me to meet new faces which would somehow turn out to be related to me. Weddings on my mum’s side, on the other hand, were always like huge family reunions because all the relatives scattered far and wide – all over the country and some overseas – would make a point to meet up then.
FaceBook also helped to bring extended family members much closer. Updates on each other’s walls informed us of their whereabouts and how they’ve been doing without “interrupting” our lives.
For an introvert like me, FaceBook has been a huge boon as I can now have conversations with my aunties, uncles and cousins whom I would otherwise not have connected with. I definitely would not be picking up the phone and wishing them happy birthday, much less having conversations with them.