Thursday, 19 April 2012

paint or point

My cousin Paula says that there are people who paint and people who point: people who communicate by taking their time filling in details and creating a gigantic picture; and people who get straight to the point.

Although I can tend to be a bit of a painter, I'm sleepy right now, and processing the past two days still, so tonite's post is going to get to the point.

Two evenings ago, Mum and Dad and I pulled into the driveway of Paula and Charlie. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Paula has the same great-grandparents as Mum. We had never met.

The first evening, Paula's three brothers and cousin Diane also joined us for dinner, and Diane (who is from Phoenix) has been staying the entire time and today the four of us who are related (Paula, Diane, Mum and me) sat around looking at photos, sharing stories, laughing, crying, photocopying letters, and eating together. We've seen new photos of Hamuera and Lydia, and when I return to Aotearoa I will be bringing home letters written by Aunty Martha and Uncle Paul as children, and letters by many more relatives as adults.

This legacy of writing is amazing. The hours and hours represented by the letters and other documents astounding in these email times, and a deep but simple faith in international postal services was central to the ability of two branches of the Gose family to connect over the course of decades despite being located in two very different parts of the world. Correspondence - at least, that we read today written between various members of the Gose and Te Punga families - is a way of sharing news, celebrating, mourning, expressing gratitude, apologising, reciting history, connecting, making introductions, explaining, seeking favours, and reflecting on matters of faith. A deep commitment to family relationships and a spiritual life underpin most of these letters, as is a deep commitment to - and careful mabilisation of - language. God, family and literacy are key.

Over last nite and today we gently pulled on the ties that bind us through our shared ancestry and happily found that the ties, which had been carefully woven through the sharing of letters and cards over the past 100 years, were supple.

Actually, even as I wrote this blog tonite, yawning and stretching all the way but unable to stop writing, I found that it's impossible to be a pointer when it comes to family... I can't help but paint. And write. And paint.

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