Thursday, 7 December 2017

Family Tree - A Tanka Prose Piece


  

In the days when life was less loud and messy … and mostly, fixable with a good night’s sleep, my family was as big as the biggest oak tree that you could imagine.  There were branches and branches of relatives in every combination and configuration, with which, a human being can lay claim to a leaf on a family tree … grandparents and great grannies, cousins galore … and, as if that wasn’t enough … second, third and fourth cousins … likewise aunts and uncles … to say nothing of the once and twice removed, lot – that nobody ever got … but counted them as kin … or, at least – ‘married-in’. 
  
From time to time, all the leaves on all the branches, from all over Ontario, would return to the family tree, for giant reunions, held in our small town of Port Arthur – where the best cooks in the clan had ended up.   The women prepared food for days in advance … and the men made homemade potato champagne … in vast quantities. 
  
And then, the party would commence.  Records were played, of someone’s favorite tunes – that, inevitably, conjured forth special memories.  The words ‘remember when’ rustled through the air like colorful autumn leaves fluttering before the fall.   And immense backyard bonfires were lit, that threatened to burn down the house of the host … but never did.  Instead ‘goings-on’, such as those, were celebrated in hilarious family anecdotes … to be retold, again and again, at future reunions … and funerals.
   
Those were such good times ... looking back ... extraordinary times.  There was joking and fun.  There was laughter.  There was abiding affection and a sense of belonging – in some which-way – to that strange ‘warts-and-all’ tribe that didn’t have much in common, really … other than – from the youngest to the oldest – we considered ourselves … part of the family. 
 
Small town Canada … like small towns, everywhere … has changed a lot, since then.  People move away and no one ever goes back.   Many of the leaves from the family tree have fallen … or toss … on far off winds, never to return.  Those wonderful, wonderful ‘get-togethers’, of people who genuinely wanted to spend time with each other … who wanted the best for each other … are gone … long gone … many years now … though my mind casts back to them … often … in my rambles ………… 
  
I linger before
a huge dead tree trunk 
feeling the serenity of acceptance
there ... in what remains
of what once was

note: 'warts and all'  means to reveal something in its totality, and not conceal the less attractive aspects.  The expression is said to have come from Oliver Cromwell’s instructions to his portrait painter to paint him ‘warts and all’ and not in the style of the day, which was to flatter the sitter.

photo:  taken in Lynn Headwaters Park in North Vancouver – P. Bourke
  
© 2017 Wendy Bourke

22 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this, Wendy, including the note. One of the sentences that particularly hit home for me was this: "People move away and no one ever goes back." Sad, isn't it?

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  2. "People move away and no one ever goes back." -- such sad words. That seems to be the way that it is going everywhere. But, oh there were the good times; and oh, there are the memories. And though the tree itself may have undergone change, life has gone out from it & there are branches that have taken root elsewhere! Thought-provoking, introspective writing here.

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  3. Family and friends move and some don't keep in touch. That's getting more and more common these days, but we keep our memories of those bygone and happy times close. Am looking forward to family reunions, smiles!

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  4. Very well written and a very sad reality.

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  5. Conversations that start with remember when... family, friends, good times!

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  6. thank you Wendy, i enjoyed the read very much. it does bring back memories.
    i am not sure if this is true in most cultures, that contact within family members is getting less and less, as anecdotal evidence is pointing out. perhaps the family nucleus is getting smaller, or the hectic pace of life contributed to it.

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  7. Perhaps you are talking about the "soil," in which we are planted. You sing my song, it was like that when I was young. Now, so many are gone, have died, or moved away...what was, is now no longer. Perhaps we are not supposed to cross the same bridge twice? Thank you for the write. I loved each word.

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  8. Reminds me of my family and it's leaves. I love how the words just flowed throughout that prose

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  9. Wendy, I so felt the truth of this poem. I love the beautiful photo, by the way. My nostalgia, when I look back, is for just this - the feeling of belonging to a big family, a tribe. Now so many have died, so many scattered that even my own nuclear family finds it hard if not impossible to get together all at one time. I really felt this poem. I love the acceptance in the tanka. The comfort of nature.

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    1. Thanks, Sherry. The prose just flowed - but the tanka; I must have rejigged a dozen times. And then it struck me: acceptance. There is serenity in acceptance - serenity in the acceptance that something/someone is gone and is never coming back into your life.

      Though I'm still not sure that I've got the wording quite right. Smiles.

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    2. and - ha - I have just rejigged the pivot line, yet again ... from 'and feel' to 'feeling'. I think I'm done, now.

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  10. I can really feel this, even if I have never experienced such family joy, though I can feel the branches thinning.

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  11. The world has been changing so much... and with the change so many things break (some have gotten better, too, but the break seems to run deeper). Your poem expresses all that nostalgia, and shines light on that bittersweet balm that is memory.

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  12. These memories tough are wonderful--and although things are always changing--there is much joy in the tree-still--

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  13. "though are wonderful" not enough coffee yet!

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  14. Sigh.. this is so poignant. Parties and reunions used to be so warm and solicitous back in the days.. I still cherish memories from my past.

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  15. Awesome memories sprinkled with wisdom.
    ZQ

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  16. I loved this, Wendy, and identified with much of it. Fortunately, the next generation in my family has started the tradition of "Cookie Day", and gather for a day of baking and exchanging stories and traditions as an important part of their Christmas. The stories must continue to be told ...

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  17. Love this, Wendy. Well written piece about the sadness of people leaving, not coming back, exactly like wayward leaves.

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  18. I so enjoy reading your prose, you take us into your life, your journey. I can feel the tides of change and there is sadness of what once was.

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  19. How true this for sadly our famlies are now spread over the world rather than in the next county. Marriages too meant that relatives joined their spouses get togethers rather than their own. It is sad but inevitable and essential to maintain the viability of the species!

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  20. This is personal as well as universal. Aah...story of the colorful autumn leaves tossed on far off wind....so beautifully penned...

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