Thursday, March 05, 2009

On Family, the Old World and Values

Joining Facebook recently and trying to find connections has made me think a little about family. Mr. BTEG and I discussed how families that come over from the Old World are very close to each other, their kids are all close to the family, but the third generation seems to drift apart. My grandfather had a whole bunch of brothers and sisters, and I dimly remember the annual family picnics where all of them would get together, with their kids and grandkids attending as well. Now the kids and grandkids barely see each other. I haven't seen any of my cousins in years. I wonder why that is? Does the assimilation into American life mean a rejection of some of the Old World values? Or does the gradual increase of prosperity of the later generations mean less of a need to cling together and support one another as family?

The other thing that seemed to disappear in these family dynamics is the language. My grandfather couldn't speak his parents' native Saxon. My father-in-law's first language was Italian, but my husband knows none of it. There seemed to have been a real pride in making sure the kids wouldn't be hampered by not knowing the native language of America, but what have we lost by discarding some of our past? Does it matter, since we'll never visit "the homeland" except as tourists? Thankfully, at least my in-laws have managed to retain a large part of their family culture. I read those "You know you grew up... when..." and totally relate them to my husband's family. My family did not retain so much of the culture. I think in my grandmother's case it was because they were wanderers in an alien land even where they came from, but I do wonder what life among the Transylvanian Saxons was like. I wish I could restore my few threads with the past.


Presbytera said...

We also had huge family reunions as I was growing up. I have 49 first cousins and we loved our annual get togethers!

One thing that large reunions can be attributed to is the fact that there was not a lot of opportunity for fun. People worked hard to survive and build a life. There were very few chances for frivolity. Today we are turned inward for our entertainment (TV, computer, electronic whatevers); then they relished the time when they could get together with others.

I miss those reunions. I now keep in contact with just a handful of my cousins.

John O said...

My wife's family used to get together regularly at her grandma's house. Now of course, the simplist and I think most unfortunate way to stay in touch with most is by sites like Facebook. In person is better but Facebook has its place and we sure enjoy it for staying in touch with old friends and fsmily.