It’s claimed that everything in life comes with a sacrifice of something else. One of the prices I paid by growing up barefoot and carefree in Auckland in the early 90’s was that I didn’t have my grandparents around. I never related to kids who said they were going to Nana’s for the weekend or that Grandpa and Grandma were coming to stay over the summer.
In truth, this did not particularly bother me. When you’re young you live for the moment. You live for the playground at lunchtime, cartoons and Maggi 2-Minute Noodles after school, and rollerblading around the cul-de-sac before bed. As the sentimental thing I was (and still am), of course I missed all my grandparents and would have liked to have them around, but as a kid you adapt to whatever is thrown at you.
What you do miss out on, and only realise later, is a heightened ability to understand your family. Spending quality time with people who had a hand in shaping your parents’ lives teaches you something about how your family works, how your parents came to be the way they are, and even gives you a glimpse at another side of yourself that you were previously blind to. These realisations are difficult to put into words as they’re more of an intrinsic appreciation and personal to everyone individually.
With each realisation comes a wave of what I can only describe as ‘awkward familiarity’, best likened to that feeling you get the first time you see a film in which the characters have Kiwi accents instead of American ones, or art-house films in which crying scenes are red-eyed and snotty rather than comprised of fraudulent single tears that leave make-up intact.
But one thing that’s never awkward and I can’t get enough of is seeing old photos. One day, when time machines are invented I’ll go back and see my parents in all their 70’s glory, complete with Mum’s heavy eye-shadow and long, straight hair and Dad’s dark beard and thick glasses. But until that day comes, I’ll be content in leafing through collections of faded, sepia snapshots of the past.