When you tidy up you find treasures.
I was 15 or 16 in this picture. Christmas in Kingsburg with the Hansens.
I’m super sensitive today (feeling ALL the feelings) so naturally I just sat down and cried when I found this.: tears of “I miss this,” tears of joy, tears of gratitude for the big-ness of all the love I have been shown in my life, tears of sadness for all the pain and hardship each of these beautiful people have known, and tears of the awareness of the beautiful complexity of this marvelous, tragic, and stunning thing we call “life.”
This is one of the only pictures I have with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins and grandparents on mom’s side together in one frame. It’s my mom’s parents, all her siblings and spouses, and all the grandkids. Some of my fondest and best memories of my childhood are spent with these people. Riding bikes through orange groves, running around giant Sequoias, surreptitiously bringing the dirty outside cats in and dressing them up, making up dance routines, and of course, all going to church every Sunday. Life centered around the farm, church, and family. I was raised by this village of people, my church family, and of course, my dad’s side of the family—which included another set of too many first cousins to count, aunties and uncles, and my dad’s parents. Even though there were tons of us, we had plenty of room to run around and generally ran amok in the fields and the big houses that go along with farms.
WE LOVED the idea in this picture that we were all there. It hasn’t happened much since. We loved being part of the Hansen clan and felt a strong sense of connection to our Swedish and Norwegian heritage, as well as the fact that our parents were raised as missionary kids in Brazil and would speak in Portuguese when they wanted to have grown up conversations without the prying ear of children. To this day, both Swedish meatballs and the Brazilian dish Fejoida feel like “home” to me. I also feel home in any musty old church foyer, and sometimes desperately miss measuring the calendar by which crop was flowering, or being planted, or harvested. I love each of the people in this picture so much my heart ACHES.
Our family, like all families, has also had its share of illness, tragedy and loss. My grandmother passed away weeks before my daughter was born. Death, addiction, mental illness, divorce, and geographical distance have all caused us to not be in contact as much as when we were kids, but when I hold them in my mind’s eye and feel them in my heart, I feel the heartstrings of love and connection that are eternal. When I sing harmonies to “Joy to the World,” I hear my cousin’s voice singing next to mine. When I lead my daughters in a fun dance move, I feel my cousins and sisters blissfully expressing our little feminine hearts with me. When I arrange flowers, I feel my sister talking about the proper way to arrange flowers next to me. When I help a client overcome the darkness, I feel the heart of my missionary grandfather beating in mine who always told everyone he ever met about the light of Jesus.
And it’s all so complex isn’t it? This business of life and of loving. My prayer or thought or hope or however you conceptualize that abstract concept of our oneness is that you STOP today and ponder the wonder and the mystery of it all and allow yourself to fall in love with the beauty of your people—because they made you and continue to make you.