I’ve hired the 18-year-old son of one of my friends to help me out around the yard. His school is planning a pretty big field trip to a number of Mayan archeological sites (he is studying to be a tour guide and is an extremely talented musician), and he needs a little extra spending cash for the trip. His father had cleared almost all of undergrowth on my property, and now the son is finishing it up. It’s hard work, made more difficult by the hot, humid weather.
He works half-days during the week and then a full day on Saturday. Yesterday (Friday) was his first day, so I made him breakfast before he started working. Today, I took him out for lunch. He is, after all, the son of a good friend, and the poor kid had been working hard! The plan had been to get lunch delivered. There is one restaurant two towns over (which happens to be the town that he lives in) that delivers. I love the fact that there is someplace that delivers – having come from San Francisco where you can get anything delivered, being somewhere where delivery is a virtual unknown is just a little unsettling. Unfortunately, the owner changed his cell phone number so my WhatsApp message for delivery didn’t go through. So we got in La Bestia and drove over.
As it turns out, the restaurant is owned by his uncle and aunt. While we were eating, another aunt and uncle stopped by, and cousins called out hello as they rode by. His family is large – his father is one of a dozen children, and I don’t know how many siblings his mother has, but I do know there are at least three – and it is impossible for anyone to go anywhere without others knowing. I started laughing and said something to him along the lines of: “You really can’t get in much trouble, can you? Your family is all around you.” He laughed and agreed.
And because I have been adopted into the family, the same is pretty much true for me as well. I live two towns away, so the family doesn’t see my comings and goings as much as if I lived in the same town, but I do get regular texts to make sure I’m okay.
To this young man, this large network of family is normal, and the look on his face when I showed him a group photo of my father’s side of the family that was taken last weekend when I was in Connecticut at a family wedding was comical. In the photo there are probably about 40 of us. He wanted to know where everyone else was, and when I told him that that was everyone, he was shocked at how small my family is. When I explained that my mother’s family was even smaller, he couldn’t believe it.
Here, many family members live in the same town as their parents. You end up with villages where pretty much everyone is a relative. This has some wonderful benefits, but can be very painful when a natural disaster, such as the volcanic eruption here in Guatemala recently, where entire families were completely killed. In the US, my family is a bit of a hybrid. Many of my family members live within 8-10 hours from each other, with a few outliers (okay, mainly me!). But as I compared the two, I knew with complete certainty that geographical distance doesn’t make or break the strength of the relationship.
Last weekend, when I was at the wedding, I felt the same amount of love and care from my family members as this young man does from his family. Distance doesn’t matter. And with social media and internet calling, I often feel as if I am right there with my family. Of course, sometimes I miss out on some things, and there are times where I wish it was easier to do the spontaneous drop-in, but all in all, I have it pretty good. I have my birth family in the US that loves and supports me, I have my friends all over the world who cheer me on, and I have my adopted Guatemala family too. I am truly blessed.